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Charlie Neibergall, AP
Gymnast Shawn Johnson, left, of West Des Moines, Iowa, and track hurdler Lolo Jones, right, of Des Moines, Iowa, celebrate during an Olympic sendoff rally, Monday, July 14, 2008, in Des Moines, Iowa. The two athletes will compete for the United States in the Summer Olympics in Beijing. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Related blog: Carmen Rasmussen Herbert: Virginity makes headline news

Lori "Lolo" Jones is a 29-year-old hurdler who won three NCAA championships at LSU, and she was leading the finals of the 100-meter hurdles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics before tripping on the second-to-last hurdle and ultimately finishing seventh.

But despite being a world-class athlete who is a devout Christian and charitably active in her native Iowa, Jones lived in relative anonymity — until she told an interviewer this week that she is a virgin.

"Interest in Jones, 29, has gone nuclear (since Tuesday), after HBO's 'Real Sports' aired an interview with Jones on Tuesday night," the Los Angeles Times' Rene Lynch wrote Wednesday. "In that interview, Jones talked about her dating woes, which she attributed in part to the fact that she's a virgin — and unwilling to change that status until her wedding night. (Just for the record, the social-media savvy Jones started the conversation by Tweeting about her sexless status.)"

During her interview with HBO's Mary Carrillo, Jones explained her decision to stay a virgin: "It's just something, a gift that I want to give to my husband. But please understand this journey has been hard. If there's virgins out there, I just want to let them know, it's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Harder than training for the Olympics, harder than graduating from college, has been to stay a virgin before marriage."

The media website Mashable reported Thursday a tangible measurement of Jones' disclosure: "Since May 20, her number of Twitter followers has jumped by about 20,000 — a nearly 40 percent increase."

Christianity is a central tenet of Jones' life. The Washington Post's Under God blog reported Wednesday, "In previous media interviews, Jones has shared how her Christian faith infuses all aspects of her life — not just the dating side."

As numerous media outlets were quick to point out, Jones shares several distinctive characteristics with New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow: both are successful athletes who are devout Christians and saving sex until after they're married.

Tebow's Jets teammates, aware of the connection, teased the quarterback about it Thursday. Jets beat writer Kevin Armstrong tweeted, "When Tebow entered (the) locker room today, several Jets players started chanting, 'Lolo! Lolo!’ ”