Lolo Jones wrapped up her track season a little early so she could tango and two-step. She’s also putting her bobsled career on hold for a winter in order to jitterbug and jive.
The Olympian is simply hearing the call of the music, even if she readily admits she has two left feet on the dance floor.
Jones will join NASCAR driver Michael Waltrip, UFC legend Randy Couture and other famous personalities on the new season of “Dancing With the Stars.” The 19th season of the show premieres Sept. 15 on ABC.
The nerves are already building for Jones, who’s quite rhythmic leaping over hurdles, just not so much on a dance floor.
She said her prom date in high school even left her early because of her dancing.
“I’ve been traumatized ever since,” Jones said with a laugh in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “This will be my chance to make up for that—in front of a whole bunch of people, too.”
Jones hasn’t had a moment to slow down since placing 11th as a brakeman for a U.S. sled at the Sochi Olympics.
She then quickly switched over to the hurdles, her summer occupation. Jones finished third in the event at the USA Championships in Sacramento, California, in June and ran a few other meets before shutting things down to give herself a rest.
Now, she’s clearing her calendar to cha-cha and foxtrot.
Jones put the brakes on her bobsled ambitions—just for a winter, though. Nothing long-term.
Only because there’s no telling how far she may advance in the dance competition and it may be well into November until she’s finished.
“They (bobsledding) are the ones that encouraged me to take the year off,” said the 32-year-old Jones, who’s from Des Moines, Iowa. “They knew about this opportunity, said it would be good for me to have fun.”
No pressure, but quite a few athletes have won the competition: Emmitt Smith, Apolo Anton Ohno, Helio Castroneves, Kristi Yamaguchi, Shawn Johnson, Hines Ward, Donald Driver and Meryl Davis.
That’s why she’s been taking some instructions. She’s also a little intimidated by some of the backgrounds of her fellow competitors. Actress Lea Thompson once trained in ballet and some of the others were tap dancers.
But Jones does have this working in her favour—her footwork from years of track. She was recently on a plane with actor and fellow competitor Alfonso Ribeiro, who was rubbing his ankles and saying how bad they hurt after a dance session.
“I told him that when I come off a hurdle I jam my ankles pretty good. So this isn’t too bad,” Jones recalled. “He looked at me like I was crazy.”
Once her stint on the show ends, Jones will return to track. She’s anxious to see how good she can be just focusing on the hurdles again, especially with the 2016 Rio Games on the horizon.
Jones has had some heartbreaking encounters at the Olympics. She finished fourth at the 2012 London Games, 0.10 seconds behind bronze medallist Kellie Wells.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Jones came in as the favourite and was leading the final when she hit the ninth of 10 hurdles and wound up seventh.
“I tell people all the time: Even if I would’ve won a gold medal at the last two Olympics, I still would go for Rio,” Jones said. “I think it’s amazing they’re having an Olympics there.”
As for her Olympic future in bobsledding, well, that remains undecided.
“I want to put my focus on Rio first. I don’t make any guarantees for South Korea,” Jones said about the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang. “It just depends on if I’m still in shape and if they want me. There are so many factors that go into play.”