Criticism of Lolo Jones as a marketing-driven spectacle laden with sex appeal is unfounded and unfair to the U.S. Olympian who missed a medal in the 100-meter hurdles by 0.1 seconds, her longtime coach told FoxNews.com.
Dennis Shaver, who began coaching Jones at Louisiana State University, said the two-time world indoor 60-meter hurdles champion is a bona fide superstar with a resume to match her slew of endorsements and prime-time publicity.
"You know, Lolo is a beautiful girl and so is Kournikova, but that’s about the only thing you can say that’s true about it,” Shaver said."
- Dennis Shaver
Shaver said Jones, who resides in Baton Rouge, La., is the only woman ever to win back-to-back World Indoor titles in 60-meter hurdles.
“No other woman has ever done that in the history of the sport,” he said. The point, said Shaver and others, is that Jones may be attractive, but she's also a legitimate world-class athlete.
Jones, the 30-year-old Iowa native who once again missed out on Olympic hardware this week, was blasted in a New York Times article as being on the receiving end of far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete in London thanks to her “exotic beauty” and a “sad and cynical marketing campaign,” rather than her swift feet. One source likened Jones to Anna Kournikova, a former Russian tennis player whose beauty and blonde locks garnered far more attention than her backhand.
“You know, Lolo is a beautiful girl and so is Kournikova, but that’s about the only thing you can say that’s true about it,” Shaver said.
Jones finished fourth in the 100-meter hurdles Tuesday, 0.10 seconds behind American bronze medalist Kellie Wells and 0.23 seconds behind Australian Sally Pearson, who won gold.
In 2008, Jones entered Beijing as the favorite, but finished seventh after striking the ninth of 10 hurdles. She has yet to win an Olympic medal or a world outdoor championship, but some sports executives told FoxNews.com that some of the criticism lobbed her way may have something to do with her outspoken views on religion and her well-publicized virginity.
Shaver, however, who said he considers Jones to be like a “second daughter,” said her main concern will be Olympian hardware — and not market share — in the years ahead, including at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016.
“She has one more four-year run at it,” he said. “We’re looking forward to preparing for Rio.”