Three athletes from Iowa experienced much different emotions as their Olympic experiences came to an end today. Gymnast Shawn Johnson of West Des Moines, after claiming three silver medals, won gold in the balance beam competition. Meanwhile, Des Moines native Lolo Jones suffered a crushing defeat in the 100 meter hurdles.
Des Moines Register Sports Editor Bryce Miller, who’s in Beijing, watched the race as Jones clipped a hurdle and stumbled to a seventh place finish. "She just clipped the front of the second to last hurdle," Miller told Radio Iowa. "(It was) a stunning ending. She came through the finish line, collapsed on the track and really struggled with what had unfolded."
Jones was winning the race at the time of the mistake and had posted the fastest time, of 12.43 seconds, in the semifinals. "For somebody who had worked so hard, and it was pretty well documented the financial struggles she had and some of her childhood challenges…to be in that moment and be that close…that’s just got to be something you’ll never forget," Miller said.
Jones’ teammate, Dawn Harper, took the gold medal. Miller spoke with Jones after the race. "She said things like, ‘there are 10 hurdles and you have to clear them all or you’re not the champion, I didn’t clear them all, so I’m not the champ.’ It’s one of those things that she accepted she had control over it and it didn’t work the way she planned, but she didn’t make excuses and didn’t blame anybody but herself," Miller said.
Jones told reporters that it’s extremely rare for her to trip over a hurdle. Miller says Jones believes the last time she clipped a hurdle was the day before the Olympic Trials. "She said maybe (she) hits a hurdle twice in a season and that it’s just disappointing it happened in the biggest race of (her) life," Miller said. The 26-year old Jones missed the cut to make the 2004 U.S. Olympic team. It’s not clear if she’ll try again in 2012.
"She didn’t really address that," Miller said. "There were a couple of Jamaicans that are 33 years old in the hurdles, so it’s conceivable she could be back, but it’s a lot of investment emotionally and physically to go through those four years." In freestyle wrestling, former Iowa Hawkeye Mike Zadick lost two matches and was knocked out of competition at 132 pounds. Zadick, who was a late addition to the Olympic roster, failed to score a single point against his opponents.
Miller says Zadick struggled to make weight and was seriously dehydrated after the opening round loss. "Probably, mentally, only having a couple days to really feel like he was in the tournament…I think all of those things factored in to him really not being in a position to contend," Miller said. Another former Hawkeye, Doug Schwab of Osage, will compete in freestyle wrestling Wednesday – as will Ben Askren, a native of Cedar Rapids who wrestled in college at the University of Missouri.