Lolo Jones looks on after competing in the Women's 100m Hurdles Semifinals on Day 11 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 7, 2012. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
LONDON -- In Beijing, Lolo Jones watched a gold medal slip away. In London, the color shifted to bronze.
Jones fought back from a year of health concerns -- surgery to repair a tethered spine condition last August and a pair of hamstring injuries -- but watched the comeback fall one position and one-tenth of a second short of an Olympic medal Tuesday in the women's 100-meter hurdles.
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Top-ranked Australian Sally Pearson won the gold medal in an Olympic record time of 12.35 seconds at the Olympic Stadium. U.S. runners then gobbled up the next two spots with 2008 champion Dawn Harper finishing with a silver medal in 12.37 and teammate Kellie Wells taking bronze in 12.48.
But it was the one-spot-from-a-medal ending for Jones (12.58) that had many buzzing -- and Jones seeking answers.
"I kinda figured I was out, but I didn't know. I was hoping -- a prayer, a chance -- that I would squeak away a medal," Jones, 30, said of the moments before results were posted.
"You always think, 'What could I have done differently?'"
In 2008, Jones ran the third-fastest time in Olympic history during the semifinals at Beijing's National Stadium and led the final -- until clipping the second-to-last hurdle.
Jones lost stride and faded to 7th, and Harper raced past for an unexpected gold medal.
The two-time world indoor champion was one of the most high-profile American athletes heading into this Olympics after a news media barrage about her life this year.
On Twitter, where she has more than 257,000 followers, Jones revealed she has decided to remain a virgin until marriage, a topic that captured the attention of a newer, bigger audience.
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Jones revealed in a 2008 article in the Des Moines Register that she, her single mother and siblings lived for a period of time in the basement of a local Salvation Army as they struggled to make ends meet.
HBO, ESPN, "NBC Nightly News," Rolling Stone and others latched on to Jones' personal story.
Days after Harper won this year's U.S. Olympic trials, Jones appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" after a third-place finish.
Time devoted three of its Olympic preview covers to U.S. athletes -- one of which was Jones, the only non-medalist.
Part of the popularity of Jones developed after her most painful athletic moment -- when the hurdle miscue cost her a right-within-reach 2008 Olympic gold medal in front of a stunned crowd of 91,000.
Jones was crushed anew Tuesday.
"I'll definitely be reading my Bible and try to grasp the positives and see what God has to teach me from all this," she said. "That's the only way I feel I can get rebalanced right now, because I am so brokenhearted."
(Bryce Miller, USA TODAY)