It's trying keeping up with the Jones


HOLD THE BACK PAGE:AMERICAN ATHLETE Lolo Jones often finds herself at the centre of, well, heated debate, her detractors long arguing that she only receives the level of media attention she does – which is quite a bit – and sponsorship because she’s a touch on the attractive side and is prepared to do just about anything for publicity.

Writing in the New York Times in August, Jere Longman let rip – in quite spectacular style, accusing Jones, a 60 and 100 metre hurdler, of engaging in “a cynical marketing strategy that is long on hyperbole and short on achievement”.

“Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London Games. This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign,” Longman wrote.

“Essentially, Jones has decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be – vixen, virgin, victim — to draw attention to herself and the many products she endorses . . . she has played into the persistent, demeaning notion that women are worthy as athletes only if they have sex appeal. And, too often, the news media have played right along with her.”

Jones, naturally enough, was horrified by the article, not least by the comparison with media darling Anna Kournikova, Janice Forsyth, the director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario, likening the media attention afforded the American with that given to the Russian tennis player, despite her relatively modest achievements.

“It’s really a sad commentary on the industry Lolo is in,” said Forsyth, perhaps with Jones’s 2009 nude photo shoot for ESPN the Magazine in mind.

“Limited opportunities are there for women to gain a foothold unless they sell themselves as sex kittens or virgins for sale.”

Jones took deep offence at the Kournikova business, in particular. “They didn’t even do their research, calling me the Anna Kournikova of track,” she said the day after she finished fourth in the 100 metre hurdles final at London 2012.

“I have the American record. I am the American record holder indoors, I have two world indoor titles. Just because I don’t boast about these things, I don’t think I should be ripped apart by media.”

And any celebrating by her critics of her failure to win a medal in London was, she argued, a touch harsh in light of the fact she’d had spinal cord surgery and suffered two hamstring injuries in the previous year.

She did, though, concede that maybe she’d brought some of this unwanted attention on herself, like, for example, the time she shared just a little too much personal information with her Twitter followers by revealing her pledge that she would stay a virgin until marriage. “Maybe I should, like, zip it,” she said.

And Twitter has, it must be said, played a not insignificant part in her difficulties.

Back in July, for example, she tweeted: “USA men’s archery lost the gold medal to Italy but that’s ok, we are Americans . . . When’s da Gun shooting competition”.

Harmless? Well, it might have been, entirely, except it came days after the Aurora, Colorado shootings when a gunman murdered 12 and wounded 57.

Jones, then, had a whole heap of explaining and apologising to do when the unfortunate timing of her tweet was pointed out to her. Well, she almost apologised: “sorry u guys only think of violence but I think of all the hunting I do w southerners in da south. Its impressive.”

And this week? A chap by the name of Eric LeGrand challenged her on Twitter to a race.

“Get checked for a concussion,” she replied, “Clearly, u’ve been hit in the head cos you arnt beating a track athlete.”

The problem?

LeGrand is a former NFL player who was paralysed from the neck down after sustaining a spine injury in 2010 when playing for Rutgers, and is now a quadriplegic.

“Great, I’m, gonna get murdered for that tweet,” she replied on being informed of LeGrand’s story.

And was, though mercifully not literally.

She’s hard not to like, but Lolo Jones can, on occasion, not help herself a great deal.

Heskey arrival Down Under completes the A-League of elderly gentleman

“A-League of extraordinary gentlemen,” read the headline on a Sydney Morning Herald article this week as the paper built up to the start of the Australian football – as in soccer – season.

Beside the piece was a photo of “the big three, the holy trinity”, Sydney FC’s Alessandro Del Piero, Newcastle’s Emile Heskey and Western Sydney’s Shinji Ono, the league’s “marquee” imports for the new campaign.

“They have sparked a level of excitement never before seen for the round-ball code in this country,” said the paper.

“Chances are you’ve seen photos of all three in the past fortnight. Putting them together is an image set to go right around the world, and with it a declaration that Australia has aspirations of becoming a serious football country with a serious domestic competition.”

The Australian was no less dizzy. “They are the Big Three – international players of such quality and reputation that they have sparked an unprecedented fan and media frenzy,” they declared.

You do, of course, hate saying “huh?”, but . . .

Del Piero: Once a legend, but, well, 38 next month.

Heskey: 35 in January, hasn’t played for England since the 2010 World Cup, scored nine times for his last English club, Aston Villa, in 92 appearances, and was then released.

Ono: Now 33, left Bochum in Germany for Shimizu S-Pulse in 2010 because he wanted to team up with his wife and children in Japan. Left Japan last month for Sydney.

Combined ages, then, 106, if that’s not a little ageist.

An A-League of elderly gentlemen just possibly, you know, past their best and looking for one last half-reasonable pay day? Strewth, never.

Australian Open proves recession proof

There was good news for professional tennis players this week with the announcement by the Australian Open organisers that they have increased prize money by AUS$4 million (€3.2 million) for the 2013 tournament to a record $31.1 million (€25 million), making it the biggest prize pool in the history of the game.

We have led the world in prize money for these incredible athletes and we want to ensure that the Australian Open continues to make a major contribution to the financial well being of professional tennis players, said Tennis Australia chief executive Steve Wood. The ATP’s president Brad Drewett praised the increase. “We welcome the increase in prize money . . . and acknowledge the ongoing efforts of Tennis

Australia to recognise the role of the players in the success of the tournament.

Lower ranked players had threatened to boycott the event because they were only – only – being paid $20,800 for a first round defeat, arguing the cost of travelling hardly made it worth their while. It’s a step forward, definitely, said defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic.

Recession? Huh, what recession?

Gerrard brings his life to book – again

THE FINAL STRAW:Liverpool’s website had an interview with Steven Gerrard this week about his newly-published book, the second autobiography in six years by the 32-year-old.

He admitted he thought long and hard about agreeing to do it because he didn’t want to repeat what was in the first book, “I don’t think it’s fair for people to go out and buy stuff they’ve already read,” he said.

His aim in this autobiography, it seems, was to be a little more straight-speaking, about both his career highs and lows in so far.

Granted, these books tend to be ghost written, but still, Gerard’s revelation about his own autobiography left you kind of wondering how heavily involved he was: “I found it an interesting read – even though it’s about myself.”

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