“I didn’t expect it,” Clemons, 31, said in a phone interview. “I was just being, you know, I’m just being me.”
The earrings were more than just an accessory. She was nicknamed “Doritos” by her husband, Kyle, and a few other athletes because of her broad shoulders and small waist, she said.
Her Internet fame was a call to action for the chip company and on Saturday, Clemons tweeted that Doritos had reached out with a gift — her face covering the bag.
Clemons will be taking her earrings to the Tokyo Olympics after qualifying for Team USA with a third-place time of 12.53 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles Sunday in Eugene, Ore.
During Clemons’s prep career at Westlake High in Waldorf, Md., athletes were not allowed to participate with accessories, so her coaches would double-check for jewelry before a race.
“Christina was the number one athlete that I had to check because she would have snuck in even a little pinkie ring or something just to make it her,” Westlake Coach Elisabeth Shook said.
Clemons was never afraid to express herself and her personality though her wardrobe. Shook said Clemons would walk onto the track with four-inch heels and say she was ready for practice.
Clemons said she initially gravitated to the 100-meter hurdles out of laziness. At a high school practice, instead of running 10 200-meter stretches, she saw the hurdlers walking over the hurdles and thought that would be easier.
Toward the end of high school, Clemons decided she wanted to run in college after a talk with one of her coaches. She tabled her original idea of getting into real estate.
She contacted Ohio State, and track and field director Karen Dennis responded. Once Clemons visited the Columbus campus, she committed on the spot.
“When you have that kind of a combination of great sprint speed and hurtling, then you know you’ve got something special,” Dennis said.
Fresh out of a successful career at Ohio State, Clemons made it to the finals of the 2012 U.S. trials but finished fifth — keeping her out of the London Olympics.
“I wasn’t so upset because I was just like, ‘Okay, well, I’ll be back next time,’ ” Clemons said.
Next time came later than she thought after suffering a ruptured Achilles’ tendon in 2013. She was working out with the Buckeyes track team, doing basic drills, Dennis said. And then she heard a pop.
“Sounded like a gunshot,” Dennis said. “She finished the drill and just dropped.”
After surgery, Clemons began her journey to the Olympics from scratch — starting with relearning how to walk. Her coaches from high school and college described her as relentless, someone they knew would fight her way to becoming an Olympian.
Clemons took to physical therapy, the track and the weight room, something Dennis said she hated doing while with the Buckeyes. Clemons missed the 2016 Rio Olympics because of the injury.
With her eyes set on the U.S. Olympic team since the moment she graduated college, Clemons said she knew she would make it, if she could just stay healthy.
“Of course, physically I’m stronger and faster and better than I was as well,” Clemons said. “But it’s deeper than that.”
She said her renewed confidence after the injury is the reason she’s heading to Tokyo, saying she wasn’t given the ability to run just for it to go to waste.
“I really just kept that faith, that hope and belief that God will get me to where I need to be. And that’s honestly what it was,” Clemons said. “It wasn’t a person or someone I looked up to. It was just really just having faith in God and sticking to it.”