While one hurdler was wondering how her own country's media could tear her down, her U.S. teammates, on the other hand, were pondering why they hadn't been getting the attention in the first place. Dawn Harper, the top-ranking American hurdler who nabbed the silver medal this year, seemingly broke her prayer-based method of dealing with the uneven pattern of press attention earlier this week. Harper also grew up having a tough life. Harper also worked multiple jobs to support herself running. And, Harper even ran her gold-medal winning race in '08 — that one Jones famously lost — in borrowed spikes, since she had no endorsements. And, jealous or not, Harper believes she deserved the attention instead. "Uhhh, I'd say I was pretty interesting," the medalist told NBC Sports Wednesday morning of her challenges and coverage-worthy journey. "I just felt as if I worked really hard to represent my country in the best way possible...because their favorite didn't win all of sudden, it's just like, 'We're going to push your story aside, and still gonna push this one.' That hurt. It did. It hurt my feelings." The problem here is not that one person has more of a feature article-worthy background than the other. It's that it shouldn't even matter. Once athletes, who are famous not for their struggles but for their extreme ability to perform alongside the best of the world, start concerning themselves with fame and glory outside the track, arena, or gymnasium that they're turning their focus toward an end goal that's dramatically shifted from their athletic one. It's true that Douglas, Jones, and Harper faced immense challenges to get where they are today — but hasn't every athlete? Whether it's a tough upbringing, a recurring injury or even cultivating a natural ability, every single person competing in London has their own kind of heroic story revolving around struggle, oppression, or overcoming the odds. No one accidentally winds up on top of that podium, and this latest wave of inescapable criticism seems to be affecting athletes like never before. Even a few games ago, things weren't as insular. Twitter didn't exist (by the last summer games, it did, but the fact that they were being held in Beijing severely restricted any sharing going on). Articles didn't pop up on the internet and get passed around instantaneously. You couldn't watch a gymnastics meet, track race, or swimming heat wherever and whenever you wanted from the tiny device in your pocket and then send your thoughts to everyone you knew. It's hard not to think that the attention on the Olympics — which has evolved from a nighttime broadcast and daytime newspaper articles to a 24-hour athletic frenzy — has played a part in the unignorable faceless chorus rallying against you, your teammate, or someone else who you think doesn't deserve it. After all, Jones' heat earlier this week was the fastest 100m hurdles race in Olympic history. And even though she lost, she still ran her best race of the season while in London's Olympic Stadium. We're not saying that the non-medalist deserves any more or less attention, but we can't help but agree with the sentiment she tearfully rounded her interview out with, which is hoping that her journey inspires a young girl to take a shot at the Olympics, too. Heroes don't always come home with a gold medal around their neck, after all.
Photo: Courtesy of FloraGLO Lutein