Harper and Wells Outrun Jones, Give God Glory

Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells gave glory to God after beating their teammate Lolo Jones to win silver and bronze in the 100-meter hurdles, but they also expressed frustration with the level of media attention directed at Jones.

THE OTHER RUNNERS: Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells take a victory lap after finishing second and third in the women’s 100-meter hurdles during the London 2012 Olympic Games. (Photo by Image of Sport/Newscom)

When Olympic hurdler Dawn Harper added a silver medal in the 100-meter race to her 2008 gold yesterday, she celebrated like she had won first place again. It was only later that she and her teammate Kellie Wells, who won bronze, expressed their disappointment that media attention has focused so heavily on Lolo Jones, the teammate they both outran and who took fourth place.

In an NBC interview that aired immediately after the race, Harper and Wells both expressed their gratitude to God for having made it to the games and to the medal stand. Last night Wells tweeted, “God has gotten me to this point. he brought me to my coach, my fam, friends, support systems. I am forever astonished by his wonders.”  And, in an undated post published by Athletes in Action, she said, “I’ve been through a lot of stuff in life and could have ended up in terrible places if it wasn’t for God choosing me, and choosing my life, and placing me in a good environment. So I just trust Him, and I love Him. I know I haven’t always been this – I haven’t always been good. Everybody makes mistakes, and everybody sins. But I realize how good God is to me, when He doesn’t really have to be. He set a plan for us, we have a book (the Bible) that tells us exactly how to live, and how life is supposed to be. It’s really hard to follow all the time. But God keeps me when I haven’t kept myself. And that’s an amazing feeling.”

Wells was sexually abused and raped by her stepfather, according to news reports. Then both he and her mother were killed in a car crash. “I know my story is very common to a lot of people, and it’s swept under the rug a lot,” Wells told The Telegraph. “If I can help at least one person and show you don’t have to be a product of your environment, you don’t have to keep secrets, and you don’t have to hide, that would be amazing.”

Harper talked about her faith journey in an interview with Beliefnet blogger Chad Bonham and explained the gospel’s importance in her life in a video produced by Athletes in Action. But when she and Wells were asked by NBC Sports this morning if they were getting enough respect for their accomplishments, Harper said that after her 2008 win over Jones, she felt as if she and her story had been pushed aside in favor of Jones’. “That hurt. It did. It hurt my feelings. But I feel as if I showed I can deal with the pressure, I came back, and I think you kinda got to respect it a little bit now,” she said.

“On the podium tonight, the three girls that earned their spot and they got their medals and they worked hard and did what they needed to do, prevailed. And that’s all that really needs to be said,” added Wells.

Lest one think Harper and Wells are poor winners, ESPN’s Jim Caple said today that it isn’t so and concluded that Harper’s assessment is correct. USA Today, for example, headlined and led its article on yesterday’s race with Jones’ “heartbreak.”

“Despite losing the gold medal to Australia’s Sally Pearson by two-hundredths of a second, Harper was about as happy as an athlete can be after her race. She joked, she laughed, she smiled. She spoke proudly of her performance: ‘I was pretty darn fast today.’ She talked about enjoying the entire Olympic experience rather than focusing so much on the medals that she lost track of everything else. She even talked about throwing a party for her hometown,” said Caple.

Harper told him that her public relations agent advised her not to talk about the preferential media attention given to Jones, but she wanted to “be real” with her fans. “I’ve put so much out there and sacrificed so much, I feel like my life/story has kind of been trampled on for the last four years,” said Harper, who, like Jones, overcame “humble beginnings” and injury to become an Olympian.

However, asked in a pre-race interview with The Washington Post if all the attention focused on Jones’ was frustrating, Harper cited her faith, saying, “At one point, it was. I don’t want to lie and say that it wasn’t. . . . I have dropped to my knees and just prayed about it and said, ‘I know that I’m blessed just to be here.’”

Jones, meanwhile, was dealing not only with her loss, but also with hurt feelings from a scathing New York Times article about her that was published August 4, just days before the race. “They should be supporting our U.S. Olympic athletes and instead they just ripped me to shreds,” Jones told the Today show this morning. “I worked six days a week, every day, for four years for a 12-second race and the fact that they just tore me apart, which is heartbreaking. … I have the American record. I am the American record holder indoors, I have two world indoor titles. Just because I don’t boast about these things, I don’t think I should be ripped apart by media. I laid it out there, fought hard for my country and it’s just a shame that I have to deal with so much backlash when I’m already so brokenhearted as it is.”

What do you think?

Should these Christian women do a better job of publicly supporting each other no matter what draws the media spotlight or is Harper right to complain?

About the author, Christine A. Scheller

Christine A. Scheller is a widely published journalist and essayist, and an editor-at-large at UrbanFaith. She lives with her husband at the Jersey Shore and in Washington, DC, where she helps facilitate dialogue between scientific and religious communities.
  1. Seems that these two women have completely missed the boat when it comes to Christ’s most basic teachings — love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7), the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), encouragement towards righteous living (Hebrews 10:24). I’m not sure how aware self-professed Christians are of their influence on others when they behave unrighteously — it does just the opposite of turning hearts toward Christ. When people who are unsure about faith see this type of behavior, most say to themselves: “If that’s what Christianity is all about, I want nothing to do with that”. Not exactly the intent of Jesus’ Great Commission.

  2. One of the great indicators and revealers of whether an action is right or wrong is the initial gut reaction we have to that action, and in this case the public reactino to Wells’/Harper’s interview.. If you read the multitude of blogs on this subject which seems to be going viral on the web right now, the majority response appears to be that these two women acted in a jealous, petty, small-minded, ungracious manner. I have to admit, when I saw this interview that was my gut reaction also.

  3. There was absolutely nothing God-glorifying about their post-race interview on the Today show. Zoe Smith is correct. People look at the fruits of a Christian life, and their interview not only displayed fruit choked out by jealousy, but a lack of grace.

  4. The public looks for a reason beyond the athletic arena to embrace an athlete. Lolo Jones is beautiful, fascinating and on top of all that a virgin. She’s the recipe for media attention and though Harper and Wells may have placed higher they lack personality, which is what the public wants and what sells. Yes they have amazing stories of feats and sorrows and in a perfect world girls like them would be on the front page everyday. Unfortunately we live in a world where scandal is the public’s heroine and great looks always win. The question remains though if Harper and Wells lack of promiscuous coverage and physical appearance is the reason for their overshadowing, or do we really just favor the athlete with the juiciest story ?

  5. They acknowledged God and then in the next breath threw a teammate under the bus because she’s pretty. The only colorism is these two pigeons against Lolo.

    Lolo, like the other two, had a hardscrabble story but why she is so compelling is because she was soooooo close to her dream and then fate blindsided her in a heartbreaking way. We can all relate to that. And she got up and tried again anyway. Very publicly. And that’s why we rooted for her.

    The two others, whose names escape me–and most of the world– were not justified in doing this. They look jealous, petty and ugly–inside and out. Blue hair and an ex-skrippa? ok…


    Who’s trying to get attention for their looks again? And failing miserably because she’s an ashy pigeon? She’s simply jealous.

    Watch the video. Those women are HATEFUL. Never acknowledged their teammate and posed with the flag in a way to say “ha ha” (we were wondering “what’s that about?” and then saw the hateful interview. Then it was clear.)

    They did all Black women a disservice. And stop making excuses because you relate to them and their jealousy. Lolo never said they belong on a syrup bottle (I wouldn’t buy it) or cause the imaginary colorism. These two are unpleasant and unsellable. Obvious in the video.

    And because of it, it’s STILL all about Lolo…all the time. Because despite all of it, she gets up and tries again.

    Good job, hood rats.

    • Your response is very telling and ignorant. Its terribly obvious that you would side with Lolo Jones regardless of the facts that are before your face. These ladies have a right to free speech. They have a right to speak up on the bias and ignorance of the media and of ignoramuses like you and others who believe that just because these two are darker hued women, they must be jealous of Jones. Jones might be ok looking, if that’s your thing but that in no way translates to personality. At 30 and being a virgin, she probably can’t give it away thanks to her true lack of personality. Btw, no one seems to notice the lack of respect shown by Jones to her teammates. Therefore, none of your comments count as a hill of beans.

  6. Hi, I just read about the controversy today and watched Lolo Jones’ tearful interview & Dawn Harper/Kellie Wells’ interview. I’ve read comments on this article as well as other postings. I empathize with how Dawn Harper feels, being the 2008 gold medalist but not getting the endorsements ($) or media attention that Jones has received. However, my gut reaction watching their interview is that they really were jealous, ungracious and spiteful – all qualities that won’t do much to advance their likeability or marketability. Their comments weren’t taken out of context or edited but was a fascinating and disappointing display of spite towards a fellow team mate. They could have graciously pointed out that she was not expected to medal but that she tried hard and had a good showing. Or they could have limited their vitriol to the media who’s the one who choose Lolo as their “favorite.” All in all, the whole spirit of the interview once it turned to Lolo Jones was really hard to watch and yes, mean, petty and “catty.” Yes, they were ambushed by that question and it would take some thought beforehand to prepare a gracious answer. They probably didn’t come prepared to comment on Jones and just spoke what was in their hearts or in their private conversations. But then again, as others have pointed out, they’ve had press conferences and interviews before and were always asked about Jones – they should have known it was coming and prepared a better response than the news-worthy (for the wrong reasons) one they gave.

    I’m sure that the two medalist have figured out the way they handled the interview reflected poorly on themselves and that they regret it. We’ve all felt the tug of jealousy and envy and when we’re clear-headed, know that we should be better than that. Hopefully, one or both of them will get some good advice on some damage control – perhaps approaching Jones privately, admitting some of their bitterness/jealousy and reconciling – then doing some charity work together or some public appearance to show solidarity and bygones (sorry for the atrocious grammer and run-on sentence here). It’s fine to point out media-bias and unfairness but its also saavy to recognize their teammates’ marketing success and popularity and take it into account in how you conduct yourself with her and speak about her, regardless of how you may feel inside.

    Even with the best turn-around PR, unfortunately once the media has cast the story in this light and built the “catty” and “ungracious winner” narrative, it’s like a fast moving train that’s almost impossible to redirect. I wouldn’t be surprised that this story is mentioned by a broadcast commentator every time Harper or Wells compete with Jones in the future (do they compete against each other or is Jones only doing in-door hurdles?). A bland, unmemorable interview that no one would have bothered to watch more than once, would have been preferable to this negative attention that really makes two beautiful young athletes, who are probably nice people and also women of faith, seem very dislikeable. After reading more about their perspectives and why they felt frustrated, most people won’t be as angry at the two as they may have felt initially. And they ran an excellent race. However, after watching the interviews and the surrounding hype, the takeaway in terms of $ is that many in America today would now think twice now about buying anything endorsed by either Dawn Harper or Kellie Wells.

    I wonder if Jones will have another chance in the 2016 games? The fact that I’m wondering this while not so much wondering about Dawn Harper and Kellie Welles makes me think about a comment post that simply stated that marketing is simply about money and getting likeable people to speak for your product or service and that Jones simply tests better with audiences and is likeable. Its not even particularly about athletic prowess. Yes, Jones is likeable, attractive and compelling. She’s not altogether polished (like when she joked about Prince Harry being her baby-daddy – totally inappropriately hilarious!) but she comes across as sincere, committed and someone you wouldn’t mind renting a room to or hiring for a job or as one comment stated, having their daughters grow up into or their sons marry. And I don’t believe that its a color issue. The media have made popular lots of “darker” skinned athletes of color. The determining factor on media-fascination is whether they convey likeability and warmth on camera and Jones certainly does it.

    As for Lolo, I think she should take a “media-fast,” meaning go cold turkey on reading news, particularly sporting news, particularly stories and comments about her or Dawn Harper / Kellie Wells. Reading what people (who don’t know you) are writing or saying about you can drive anyone crazy and actually has little value compared to the opinions of family and people who actually know you. She could just take some time to be quite by herself and, since she’s a Christian, to spend time talking with God and perhaps getting his perspective on the whole thing. You know, capture every stray thought and all that… not every thought that comes into your mind is a valid or true one and those that are harmful should be rejected.

    So… I’m excited to see where Jones will go in the next 10 years, whether she remains in competitive track and field or pursuing other careers. I’m sure that she will find the strength of character to persevere and make a good life. Best wishes for Jones as well as for Wells and Harper!

  7. Seems like JJK gave Dawn and Kellie some pretty sound counsel. What do you do when the athletes won’t even take advice from Jackie Joyner Kersee?

    Jackie Joyner Kersee made the most sense on this topic — she told HLN: “Everybody wants sponsorship, everybody wants to be marketed, but not everybody is marketable.” She told Harper, “Just get the job done. Don’t worry about who’s getting attention or not getting attention. Get out there, focus on your lane, execute, and what’s going to come your way is what’s going to come your way.”

    Seems like if Harper and Wells would have heeded that advice, none of this would have blown up in the first place.


  8. Don’t believe the hype! What is all this Goofy Mess Plus some ignorant and petty comments when Lolo came in fourth.Very Disturbing with the name calling your turning around doing the same thing and I feel and think it’s just down right Stupid also.The news media does slant. Jackie Joyner Kersee It was about winning, not about a beauty contest or nail color,even though she was gorgeous.True beauty eminates from within and beauty is fleeting.If your talking about spirit that’s where it begins.Look at a beautiful flower,it has it’s season.

  9. Dawn Harper’s associates aren’t helping her look godly. Ms. Harper’s boyfriend (Alonzo Nelson of East St. Louis) recently tweeted/retweeted to the world that Lolo Jones is a “hoe” on prozac:

    @zoeesl twitter account:
    16 Aug 2:44pm
    Retweet of Josh Gamez (@straight_edge76)
    So that Lolo Jones hoe didn’t win a medal? Then why is she on PTI [Pardon the Interruption]!?

    16 Aug 3:31pm
    Its quite interesting knowing there’s a class of ppl who kno a vry diff vers “everyone’s darling” which is why she’s addicted to Prozac

    Not a godly look for a woman who professes faith in Christ.