Lolo Jones finishes third for ticket to London

Christina Manning and Lolo Jones compete in the Christina Manning and Lolo Jones compete in the women's 100 meter hurdles final during the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field. (June 23, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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EUGENE, Ore. -- Lori "Lolo" Jones' Olympic dream is alive and well.

A third-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles at the USA Olympic Track and Field trials Saturday at Hayward Field sends the celebrated Iowa-born, Louisiana-trained, "still pure" athlete to the London Olympic Games, with a crack at erasing her sad memories of the 2008 Beijing Games.

"I woke up this morning and didn't even think I'd make this team," she said.

"Now, I'm just thrilled that I overcame all those fears and got there."

This five-ringed reprise opportunity nearly didn't happen. Midway through the eight-runner final, Jones seemed out of team contention. But a mighty burst over the final two barriers brought her up to third place, with a 12.80 clocking back of 1-2 finishers Dawn Harper (12.73) and Kellie Wells (12.77.)

A huge rally got her past Virginia Crawford (who ran 12.90) and into that all-or-nothing, go-or-stay-home third position.

The nightmare she'd endured for four years, the trauma she encountered in China, was officially over.

She'll be able to celebrate her 30th birthday -- July 5 -- in London, in style.

With the sun finally out after an earlier rain delay, in this place they call "Tracktown USA," "Lolo" could smile at last.

All the media hype, all the focus on her efforts to put a happy upturn on a downward spiral of events that began when -- just 20 meters away from an apparent Olympic gold -- she clipped the ninth hurdle of the 100-meter barrier final at Beijing, tumbled to the track, and wobbled over the finish line in seventh place, did not matter once the gun went off.

With everything on the line, she delivered.

Through their whole history, the U.S. Olympic trials have been an unforgiving event.

Make it here -- place 1, 2 or 3 -- and in almost all cases (barring some relatively recent events, once qualifying standards were put into place) and the athlete was on his/her way to the Olympic Games.

Legions of notable American athletes have crashed and burned in the trials process over the years.

World-record holders, reigning world and Olympic champions -- search the names Charley Fonville, Jim Golliday, Steve Williams, Ivory Crockett, Jack Pierce, Dan O'Brien if you wish -- have seen it all come apart for them in an instant.

It happened here again Saturday morning. No man had ever won three Olympic medals in the decathlon.

Bryan Clay (silver medalist in 2004, gold medalist in 2008) had every hope of being the first. But after he was charged with a false start in his 9:30 a.m. heat of the deca-high hurdles, he got off to a subpar start, clobbered the ninth hurdle, barged into the 10th, pushed it over, and his Olympic dream was over.

As Clay's Olympic dream ended, Ashton Eaton's caught fire. Taking firsts in seven of the 10 events, and setting decathlon world records in two of them, this very special talent out of Mountain View, Ore., went on to raise the global standard for the 10-eventer to 9,039 points.

No American had ever broken the 9,000-point barrier. Just one other man, the now-deposed world-record holder, Roman Seberle of the Czech Republic, had ever totaled more than nine-grand.

Like "Lolo" Jones, Clay has enjoyed heaps of pre-Olympic hype. He looked wonderful on those Wheaties boxes. But nothing could ease his pain on this fate-filled day.

He bowed out with class, completing the remaining events of the decathlon even though his London hopes were gone. Almost surely, he was completing his big-time track and field career.

And once again, track and field proved itself the king of all what-have-you-done-for-me-lately? sports.

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