Lolo Jones secures spot on second consecutive Olympic team
Lolo Jones smiled.
Normally, that's common for Jones, the effervescent and animated track star from Des Moines.
PHOTOS: U.S. Olympic track trials
Until this moment, though, when Jones secured her spot on a second consecutive Olympic team Saturday night at the U.S. Olympic Trials, the smile had been packed away in a suitcase of fear and doubt.
The smile returned, though, when Jones finished third in the women's 100-meter hurdles final in 12.86 seconds — securing the final spot for the London Olympics.
In that moment, the smile and the joyful bounce returned for Jones, who fought back from surgery last August and a pair of hamstring injuries to — again — become an Olympian.
"I had my sports psychologist on speed dial one, my pastor on speed dial two and my mom on speed dial three," Jones said of the pressure this weekend. "It was crazy."
The Olympic Trials champion was Dawn Harper, the woman who won gold in 2008 when Jones hit the second-to-last hurdle in Beijing.
Harper bested the stacked field in a time of 12.77, just ahead of runner-up Kellie Wells.
For Jones, third place has never felt this good.
"I woke up (Saturday morning) and I didn't even think I'd make the team," said Jones, one day after a disappointing start in a prelim that cause her to break the dreaded 13-second barrier.
"I was fighting a constant head battle, just trying to find the confidence.
"I'm just thrilled to have another shot."
Dennis Shaver, Lolo's personal coach who guided her while she constructed a star-studded career atLSU, knew the challenge to make this Olympic team would be tougher because of the surgery and injures.
He also knew something else.
"She's a tough person," Shaver said as he waited for Jones to surface from the Hayward Field track. "She's not the kind of person you can count out in a pressure situation. I'm not surprised she rose to the occasion."
The pressure to return to the Olympics intensified to levels even Jones didn't expect.
The final days and hours before the pressure-melting final felt like "two married people bickering," Jones said.
"That's how every relationship was," Jones said. "With my coach, my family. (Friday), after the first round, when I ran 13 seconds, I went back in and, as calm as I could, but it was just not — it was like a reality meltdown — I was like, 'Coach Shaver, I need you to stop lying to me. Do I look bad?' "
"It wasn't that calm. I was actually screaming. I actually threw a shoe. It was a nightmare. I'm just glad I got it all over, and I have a month to prepare for the Olympics."
Shaver, her coach, pumped as much confidence into Jones as possible.
"I kept telling here experience means something in this meet," he said. "She's been here. We knew her best races were ahead of her (after recovering from injuries). And we knew this (Olympic Trials) would be the toughest part."
"She's a tough cookie."
As an on-track interview with Jones over the public address system boomed into the chilled Oregon sky, Angie Jefferson, Lolo's sister, beamed.
"She's a fighter," Jefferson said. "I told her, 'Nothing has come easy' or ever been handed to her. She fought."
Jones wasn't alone on the track Saturday night.
She was there. But so was her trademark smile.
"It's nice to see that again," Jefferson said. "She's got a beautiful smile, doesn't she?"