America Still Loves Lolo
Olympic hopefuls Sanya Richards and Lolo Jones both fought through obstacles in their lives with determination and discipline, reaching the finals of their respective track events and then leading the pack with only a few steps between them and Olympic gold. Then each suffered setbacks causing gasps in front of television sets across the United States, and each found themselves without a gold medal.

Yet the way each athlete handled herself in the wake of the enormous disappointment encountered has left public perception of the two at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Richards was seen by experts as the likely winner of the gold in the women's 400 meter run. She had won a silver medal at the 2005 world championships, and had only missed qualifying for the 2007 worlds because of an ill-timed sickness. She held the American record, set in 2006. And at the gun, Richards shot ahead of the field, drawing well ahead of all competitors.

Then the cruel
hand of fate intervened. Announcers thought Richards had gone out too fast and run out of gas; two other runners passed her near the end, leaving Richards the bronze medal.

Lolo Jones had come on strong, winning several championships and setting records in the 60 meter hurdles. She was the favorite to hit gold in the Beijing 100 meter hurdles. Even though she had a poor start, she quickly caught and passed the field, pulling away and clearly headed for a victory. Then she hit a hurdle. The miscalculation cost her the event, as the misstep was enough to slow her and allow the competition past.

Afterwards, each spoke with television interviewers. While Richards blamed a cramp as the cause of her slowing, Jones accepted her own mistake and gave credit to the other athletes. Reader responses around the country showed empathy for Jones, while rejecting Richards for "making excuses when someone else was better."

So, even in defeat are these athletes tested; in sportsmanship, America gave Lolo a gold, Richards no medal.