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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | RANDY HARVEY

Shoe-Ins

With expectations that are the highest in Olympic history, Jones doesn't get much time to enjoy her first gold medal.

September 24, 2000|RANDY HARVEY

SYDNEY, Australia — So the folks at NBC want tears. Marion Jones gave them tears, big crocodile (Dundee?) tears. It might have been a foregone conclusion to everyone else that she would win the 100 meters Saturday night at the Olympic Stadium, but not to her.

It had been a moment she had been dreaming about since the summer of 1984, when her family in Palmdale took her and her brother to see the torch relay. That night, before she went to bed, she wrote on her chalkboard, "I want to be an Olympic champion."

Now that she finally was one, she couldn't contain her joy. Not that she didn't try, being a cool American, she in her reflective silver shoes.

"I've been sitting in my apartment the last couple of days watching the Olympics on TV, seeing everyone win gold medals," she said. "I said I'd keep my cool. But when I crossed that line, I completely lost it."

She laughed, she cried, she hugged her family. She was so happy that she even looked glad to see Jim Gray with a microphone in her face.

Jones, 25, carried a U.S. flag, representing the country of her birth, and a Belize flag, the country of her mother's birth, with her on the victory lap because she didn't want to leave anyone who had ever supported her out of the celebration.

"This is an overwhelming experience," she said later. "It's everything I dreamed of and more. This is 19 years [her math was a little off, but who's counting?] of dreaming and believing about this, and it came down to that moment. To finally have it realized and over, well, it's wonderful.

"This is my day!"

*

Now what?

It took us spoilsports in the media about three questions to get around to that one in the postrace news conference.

"Can I enjoy this for a couple of more hours?" Jones said, acting exasperated.

Actually, her husband, shotputter C.J. Hunter, had already reminded her that her work here had just begun. She has four more events to win--the 200, long jump and 400 and 1,600 relays--if she is to achieve her larger goal of becoming the first track and field athlete to win five gold medals in a single Olympics.

"I'm just very, very happy," said Hunter, who, as usual, didn't look at all happy, while his wife completed her victory lap.

"That's what she likes is challenges. I think this is the easiest of her events, but we're totally confident she can do anything."

Then, as she came off the track, they embraced and shared a quiet moment, in which he whispered in her ear, "Back to business. Now we've got to start all over again."

Whatever happened to sweet nothings?

*

Another U.S. athlete won in the 100 meters Saturday night. We really shouldn't overlook Maurice Greene.

In eras past, that wouldn't have been possible. The Olympic men's 100-meter champion, men such as Charles Paddock, Harrison Dillard, Bobby Morrow, Bullet Bob Hayes, Jim Hines, Valery Borzov and, of course, Jesse Owens, were crowned "the world's fastest man" and celebrated around the world for generations to come.

Greene deserves to be among them. He is indisputably the world's fastest man, holding the world record of 9.79 seconds, and was clearly superior Saturday night, running 9.87 into a headwind.

Silver medalist Ato Boldon of Trinidad and Tobago, the former UCLA sprinter who trains with Greene in Westwood, called himself and the others who trailed Greene to the finish line "mere mortals." The implication was that Greene is not one.

"The kind of race Maurice ran tonight, we got destroyed," Boldon said.

Yet, Greene might go down as nothing more than a footnote in these Olympics.

Zeus used to be satisfied with one gold medal. But the new gods of media and marketing need more to keep them interested. I think it started with Mark Spitz in 1972. As big as he was in Munich, where he won seven swimming gold medals, he was bigger on Madison Avenue.

Carl Lewis was anointed the star of the 1984 Summer Olympics long before the opening ceremony because he was going for four gold medals. Swimmer Matt Biondi was the chosen one in 1988 because he was going for seven. (He finished second in his first race and was called a failure by NBC. He left Seoul with a mere five golds.) Michael Johnson was the one in 1996 because he was trying to become the first man to win the 200 and 400 in the same Olympics.

Here, Marion Jones.

(Within minutes after she won, Nike distributed a press release about her Mirror Shoes.)

Greene said he understands.

"I wish her the best because I'm not trying it," he said. "She's a phenomenal athlete. It's going to take a phenomenal athlete to do it. I just hope her body doesn't break down like it did in Seville."

That was during last year's world championships, where she vowed to win four gold medals. She won one, plus a bronze, before injuring herself.

She blamed that on the hard track, baked by the Andalusian sun. She will not have that problem in Sydney's early spring. But the competition will be stiffer in the other events than it was in the 100, which she won by the largest margin in an Olympics since 1952.

She earned her celebration.

OK, time's up. One down, four to go.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Medal Winners

Men's 100-Meter Dash

Gold: Maurice Greene, United States

Silver: Ato Boldon, Trinidad and Tobago

Bronze: Obadele Thompson, Barbados

*

Women's 100-Meter Dash

Gold: Marion Jones, United States

Silver: Ekaterini Thanou, Greece

Bronze: Tanya Lawrence, Jamaica

*

Randy Harvey can be reached at his e-mail address: randy.harvey@latimes.com.

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