Thursday, September 24, 2009

Christine Arron: France's Trésor Doré (Golden Treasure)

Christine Arron is one of France's most loved athletes who many consider to be the world's legal fastest sprinter. She is officially ranked the third fastest (10.73) behind Florence Griffity-Joyner and Marion Jones (10.65) but due to the conviction of Jones and the controversy surrounding the performances of world record-holder, Florence Griffith-Joyner, many considers Arron's performance to be the 'true' world record. In 1998 she competed at the European Athletics Championships held in Budapest, Hungary where she broke the record in the 100m race. As a result of her record-breaking performance she was named the 1998 European Women's Athlete of the Year. To date, her record (10.73) has not been broken. At the 2003 World Championships in Athletics held in Paris, Arron brought absolute delight to her national and international supporters when she recovered from a 3m disadvantage to upset the American favorites in the 4x100 relay. In a superb effort on the last leg of the race she brought her team to the center of the podium to collect gold medals for winning the relay. She was born in Les Abymes, Guadeloupe on September 13, 1973 and migrated to France in 1990 where she began training with Fernand Urtebise. She gave birth to her first child, a son, in 2002. The 36 year old who celebrated her birthday some 11 days ago enjoys reading, playing the piano and art. In 2001 she took a year off from training stating that she was physically exhausted. She was training in the US and described the experience as grueling, burdensome and at times unbearable. She has had a few injuries throughout her career. In 2001 hip injury kept her out of the 2001 World Championships. In 2006 she was forced to withdraw from the European Championships in Sweden because of a tear in her left hip adductor. In 2008 she had to withdraw from the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain due to a torn hamstring in her right foot. Prior to her hamstring injury, she also suffered from inflamed tendons in her hip. Arron won the bronze medal in the 4x100m relay at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. In August 2005 she won a bronze medal in the 100 meters and in the 200 meters at the 2005 World Championships in Athletics. Before winning gold in 2004, she was ranked in the top 8 at the 2000 Olympic Games, the top 3 at other Olympic Games and top 3 at World Championships. She failed to qualify for the 100m semi finals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. She placed first in the first round heat with a time of 11.37 but was disqualified in the second round with a time of 11.36 which gave her a fourth place finish automatically causing her to be eliminated. She has done her country proud. She has made her fans the world over happy. She has given her best to the sport of athletics. She is diligent, persevering, dedicated and convicted. France loves her. Her fans adore her. I tip my hat to her. Christine Arron is without a doubt one of France's trésors dorés. Back in March Les Dessous du Sport published a post vilifying France's love of Arron. When asked who is the favorite sports woman in France, the results were as follows: Arron 32%, Laure Manaudou 26%, Jeannie Longo 24% and Amélie Mauresmo 17%.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lolo Jones: Truly Inspiring

Lolo Jones's story reads like so many other athletes and individuals who have triumphed over countless obstacles. The best part about it, at least for me, is that no matter how many times I hear of or read of stories with such a team, it's always inspiring.

For the most part hearing about similar things over and over again usually evokes a reaction of 'oh, not this again'; you know like those movies that although are given a different name the story remains the same. The effect is reversed when one is presented with real life stories that tell of heroes/heroines who against all odds, rise to the top.

This is the story of Lori Jones. She came from the humblest of beginnings; living in a church basement; attending eight different schools in eight years; living a life absent of a father who was either away on duty in the Air Force or doing time in jail and living with four different families while attending high school. She was raised by her mom who often held down two jobs to support her family of six.

Nothing about Jones's life was stable. Nothing except for the fact that she knew at an early that she wanted to be a professional athlete. With this in mind, Jones refused to relocate with her family to Forest City, Iowa and pointedly told her mom that the reason for this was that there was no track at the school there. This was the beginning of a whole new life for the young Jones.

She enrolled in Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines where she excelled in the classroom and began building the foundation of her career to come. While at school she earned the title of Gatorade Midwest Athlete of the Year and set and still holds the 100-meter hurdle record with a time of 13:40 in the Iowa state track meet.

Jones's specialty is the 60 and 100 meter hurdles. Her accomplishments include winning 3 NCAA titles, 11 All-American honors at LSU where she earned a degree in economics, she won indoor national titles in 2007, 2008 and 2009, she won her first World Indoor Championship title in 2008 and was the Silver Medal finalist at the 2008 World Athletics Final. Her performance in the 60 meter hurdles is the second fastest time for an American. Gail Devers holds the number one spot. It's safe to say that 2008 was a very good year for Jones.

One look at Jones will reveal that she's not your average all American. This is because she is of French, Native American, African American and Norwegian descent. This combination has given Jones a very unique and distinct look. Her skin tone is hard to categorize but is truly beautiful, she's got sexy eyes and an amazingly beautiful smile. Add all of these attributes to the fact that she has the immaculate body of a true athlete and the result is swoon, thud and sighs. Yep, I'm reduced to actions and not words *more sighs*.

Lolo currently resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and her sponsors are Asics and Oakley. She has had some unfortunate incidences in her professional career. The most significant being her participation in the 2008 Beijing Olympics where she was favored to win the 100 meter hurdles.

Jones was well on her way; putting distance between the other hurdlers when she clipped the 9th (of 10) hurdles and stumbled causing her to finish in 7th place. She was close to tears on the track and cried openly afterwards in the corridors. It was a truly heart-wrenching experience for Jones and many others who watched and supported her - Americans and non-Americans alike.

Over the years Jones has shared her success with her alma mater and others in her state/community. Her contributions include track shoes for all of the members of the track team at Roosevelt High School, monetary donations to improve the surface of the track and provide other equipment as well. She also made a monetary contribution to a single mother who was greatly affected by the Iowa flood of 2008.

Jones has had her share of successes so far in her career but I'm sure she has a lot more to offer and look forward to seeing her realize those goals. I have remained somewhat reserved in creating this post but that is at all no indication that Jones isn't utterly HOT because damn, she is!

She can reduce any woman or man to a blundering clutch just by being in the same room. I can see myself knocking over the waiter, tripping over the chair and landing face down because I couldn't keep my eyes off of her as I was making my way to my table in a fancy restaurant.