2012 Summer Olympics: Lolo Jones gives back and keeps Olympics in perspective
"In both communities I've lived in -- Des Moines, Iowa and Baton Rouge, Louisiana -- I've had a ton of support," Lolo says of her early days being raised by a single mother who often held down two jobs. "There's no way I'd be an Olympic athlete had people not stepped up and really helped me out when I was struggling."
Actively involved in Christian ministry, Lolo has been known to make surprise visits to her old high school in Des Moines, bringing new running shoes for each member of the track team; she has also helped secure funding for new hurdles and track repairs. In 2008, Jones donated her prize money from the 100-meter hurdles at the Olympic trials to a single mother hit hard by the Iowa flood of 2008.
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"There have been times when I've been in a position to give back, and I really feel like it's been placed in my heart to be a giving person," said Jones, whose family was so poor that they spent time living in the basement of a Salvation Army. "[I give back] not just for anything, besides the fact that I've received help, and it's pure joy. I was elated on those days."
Now, after being favored to win the 100-meter hurdles at the 2008 Olympics but being tripped up by a hurdle that made her fall to a heartbreaking seventh place, Jones is about to get another shot at Olympic glory -- and according to her, the pressure is kept in perspective by moments of philanthropy.
"As an athlete, I can become so self-absorbed sometimes," she admitted. "I need to eat this, I need to go here -- everything is constantly about this is what Lolo needs to do to get that medal."
"But when you give, it humbles you. It makes you think outside the box, it really opens you up," she explained. "The happiest moments in my life are when I'm able to give back."
Watch the opening ceremonies on NBC Friday, July 27 at 7:30 p.m. ET Then, NBCOlympics.com will be streaming live all 32 sports and 302 events.