Jones Stumbles in Hurdles Final; Lee Advances

BEIJING -- After blowing away the rest of the field through eight hurdles Tuesday at the National Stadium, a gold medal and Olympic immortality was within reach for former LSU star Lolo Jones as she advanced to the final of the 100-meter hurdles in her first Olympic Games.

But dreams of Olympic gold were dashed in a split second as Jones failed to clear the ninth hurdle of the race with the same ease that she has shown throughout her career.

With a comfortable two-meter lead on the rest of the field, Jones raised her right leg to clear the hurdle, but sent it crashing to the track in an instant. She struggled to maintain her balance going over the 10th and final hurdle of the race with her competitors beginning to seize the opportunity.

Jones, who set a new personal best with a world-leading time of 12.43 seconds in the semifinal of the event, crossed the finish line in seventh place. American teammate Dawn Harper (12.54) won the gold medal at this year’s Olympic Games, while Australian Sally McLellan (12.64) won silver and Canadian Priscilla Lopes-Schliep (12.64) took home the bronze.

“You hit a hurdle about twice a year where it affects your race. It’s just a shame that it happened in the biggest race of my life,” Jones said following her seventh-place finish. “About the middle part of the race, the hurdles were just coming up very fast and I just told myself what I always tell myself, ‘keep things tight.’ That’s what I tried to do.

“I felt the gold medal around me, but if you can’t finish the race, you don’t deserve to be Olympic champion. I just didn’t finish the race.”

Despite her misstep at these Olympic Games, Jones is still regarded as the world’s premier sprint hurdler after sweeping U.S. Indoor and Outdoor titles to go along with her World Indoor crown in the 60-meter hurdles. Her time of 12.43 in the semifinals is the fastest by any hurdler since 2004.

After finishing fifth in the women’s 100-meter dash at the “Bird’s Nest” on Monday night, former Lady Tiger standout Muna Lee began her quest for Olympic gold in the 200 meters on Tuesday by advancing through two rounds of qualifying and into the semifinals.

Lee easily won her first-round heat with the fastest time in the field at 22.71 before coasting to a runner-up finish in her quarterfinal race with a time of 22.83. She will line up in lane 4 in the first of two semifinal heats scheduled to begin Wednesday at 8:55 a.m. CT as the top four finishers in each heat will earn a spot in the final set to run on Thursday at 6:10 a.m. CT.

“It was pretty good. I just wanted to hold my form,” Lee said. “I didn’t want to go into the normal Muna Lee swing. It felt much better than any other time. I was pretty mad (after the 100 meters), but it was kind of like fuel to my fire. I’ll just think about that when it comes to the 200 final.”

Another former Lady Tiger national champion was in action Tuesday night as Laverne Eve made her fourth career Olympics appearance for The Bahamas while competing in the javelin.

Eve was unable to advance beyond the qualifying round of the javelin and placed 20th after letting loose a throw of 188 feet, 2 inches on her second attempt of the competition. The Bahamian made her Olympic debut way back in 1988 in Seoul, South Korea, and earned a career best sixth-place finish in the event in Athens, Greece, four years ago.

While Lee will be the only LSU athlete to compete on Wednesday, Olympic 100-meter silver medalist Richard “Torpedo” Thompson and fellow Trinidad & Tobago native Kelly Baptiste will return to the track on Thursday for the qualifying round of the 4x100-meter relay.