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Olympic track star virgin Lolo Jones talks candidly about struggles

8:09 AM, May 22, 2012   |    comments
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US Lolo Jones celebrates after winning the 100m hurdles contest of the IAAF Diamond League athletics meeting, on July 22, 2010 at the Louis II stadium in Monaco. AFP PHOTO VALERY HACHE (Photo credit: VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

By Bryce Miller, Des Moines Register

Track star Lolo Jones says she was a "professional shoplifter" by sixth grade as her family faced financial hurdles while she was growing up in Des Moines.

Today the 2008 Olympian is talking about struggles during her childhood and a different challenge she's faced as an adult - choosing to remain a virgin until marriage.

Jones, who competes in the women's 100-meter hurdles, described living in the basement of a Salvation Army during the ESPN documentary about her life that was broadcast Monday night.

"I definitely would say, by sixth grade, I was a professional shoplifter - and not because I wanted to. I'm not going out to shoplift earrings or clothes or shoes like the average teenager.

"I was shoplifting frozen dinners at a grocery store. I could shoplift four frozen dinners, easily."

Jones said living in the Salvation Army caused her embarrassment and her family's use of food stamps for staples such as cheese and beans created anxiety that a friend would discover her as they shopped. Challenging moments like those, Jones contended, also shaped an almost unequaled will to succeed - no matter the odds.

Jones led the gold-medal final of the women's hurdles at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing before hitting the second-to-last hurdle and finishing seventh. Fans gravitated toward her after the setback, with scores citing her positive reaction to a devastating moment.

In late June, Jones will make a bid to return to the Olympics during the trials in Eugene, Ore. Qualifiers will compete in London this summer.

On Monday night, HBO's "Real Sports" outlines Jones' world on and off the track, including her struggles to remain a virgin.

A clip of the HBO piece was posted on the show's website Monday. The 29-year-old Jones discussed her dating challenges.

"It's just something, a gift that I want to give to my husband," Jones said. "But please, understand, this journey has been hard.

"If there's virgins out there, I'm going to let them know, it's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life - harder than training for the Olympics, harder than graduating from college, has been to stay a virgin before marriage."

Jones explained that she's dabbled in a range of online dating services and specifically uses social media tool Twitter in an effort to find a prospective boyfriend.

It was on Twitter earlier this year that Jones announced to her thousands of followers that she's a virgin.

"I've been tempted," Jones said in the HBO piece. "I've had guys tell me, 'You know, if you have sex, it will help you run faster.' "

The Register's 2008 coverage of Jones highlighted her resilience to do anything necessary to train and chase her Olympic dream after a star-studded career at LSU- working jobs in the garden section of a Home Depot and shifts as a restaurant hostess.

ESPN walked through those elements of her character-building journey toward world-class competition, as well, while adding a comprehensive account of a risky surgical procedure on her spinal cord in August 2011 that could have ended her career - and robbed her ability to walk.

Jones said the reaction and support from followers after the 2008 Olympic final - and the impact on the lives of others - fueled her drive to compete at this summer's Olympics.

"That, honestly, is worth more to me than a gold medal," Jones said.

Des Moines Register

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