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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | RANDY HARVEY

Jones Is Two Good in 200

She wins second gold, then declines Bahamian's invitation to trash talk about 400 relay.

September 29, 2000|RANDY HARVEY

SYDNEY, Australia — Introducing the finalists in the women's 200 meters Thursday before a capacity crowd of 110,000 at the Olympic Stadium, the public address announcer came to the favorite and said, "Marion Jones, Bahamas."

Jones seemed perplexed at first, then smiled. It might not be a bad idea, running for the Bahamas if she wants to win another gold medal.

She won her second in the 200 almost as easily as she had won her first five nights earlier in the 100. Her margin of victory in the 100 was the largest since 1952, in the 200 the largest since Wilma Rudolph won in Rome in 1960.

As Jones has said all along, the hardest event to win in her drive for five gold medals is whichever one is next. So she immediately turned her attention to the long-jump competition.

Pauline Davis-Thompson of the Bahamas, though, was doing her best to lure Jones into joining her in some trash talk about Saturday's 400-meter relay. It remains to be seen who will win the race, but Jones was smart not to engage in a battle of words with Davis-Thompson. This woman can talk.

"We were the silver medalists in 1996, and, in 1999, we were the world champions, and we're still the underdogs, but we love being in that spot," Davis-Thompson said after finishing second to Jones in the 200.

"That's just going to make our win a little more sweeter, Marion. For the first time, we put three women in the final of the 100. Here we are, a small island 35 miles off the coast of Florida with 275,000 people, and we put three women in the final. We're going to be winning for those 275,000 people. Marion, we're going to give you one hell of a run."

An excited Davis-Thompson, who, in her fifth Olympics, had just made her first trip to the medals stand, interrupted herself at one point to say, "I'm a very outspoken person."

"No!" Jones said, laughing.

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The Bahamians would pose a threat to any group of U.S. women sprinters in the 400 relay. They are an overwhelming favorite over the group here after Inger Miller and Gail Devers, both of whom are injured, withdrew. Jones was the only American in the 100 final.

The 1,600-meter relay later Saturday looks equally troublesome for Jones and her U.S. teammates. No American made the final in the 400 meters.

"No one ever said it was going to be easy," Jones said Thursday night.

Perhaps Jenny Thompson, Madame Relay of U.S. swimming fame, will come to the rescue.

But Jones should never be underestimated on the track. No matter how substantial her lead might be, no anchor woman is going to be relaxed in the final of either relay knowing that the runner in the USA singlet chasing her is Jones.

As observations go, I suppose that doesn't rank with Columbus' that the world is round.

*

Here's another observation: As impressive as Jones has been in the sprints, the most impressive thing about her during the Summer Olympics is how she has handled herself off the track.

Jones, 24, is confronted here with the biggest crisis of her still-young career. It came to light earlier this week that her husband, 330-pound shotputter C.J. Hunter, has tested positive four times this summer for a steroid, a revelation that has provoked questions about the legitimacy of her own performances.

She is not the only American under suspicion. International Olympic Committee officials, led by Canadian Dick Pound, have alleged that the United States is less than vigilant in testing its track and field athletes for banned drugs. (That's the same Dick Pound, by the way, who was in charge of Ben Johnson's defense in Seoul.)

Norman Blake, the U.S. Olympic Committee's chief executive, categorized the campaign, which has decidedly anti-American overtones, as a "witch hunt."

"What is most disturbing to me is that our athletes, who have committed their lives to being the best they can be in their field of competition to represent our country, are now being tainted with a broad brush stroke. . . . "

Does Jones feel tainted?

"I don't have that fear," she said Thursday. "The people that know me and the people that support me and the people that coach me, they know that I'm a clean athlete. So, no, I don't think about it at all."

Two days before, she had sat at her tearful husband's side during the opening moments of his news conference, offering a brief statement and then departing without answering any questions.

In the 48 hours since, she has answered every question, unflinchingly.

"What's happened the last couple of days could have swayed me from my focus," she said. "But it didn't. I'm glad about that.

"This has been a dream of mine for a lot of years. To let one event in your life, no matter how distressing, ruin that dream, well, that's not going to happen.

"All of the times my mother drove four or five hours to take me to track meets, all of the times my brother selected me for his hide-and-seek team, to let one event ruin all of that, no way.

"I'm here for more than two gold medals. I'm here for five. In a certain way, I'm checking them off."

She interrupted her victory lap Thursday night when she spotted Hunter in the crowd and ran over to kiss him. He and his troubles might be an enormous weight for her to carry on her shoulders right now, but she's standing as tall as ever, maybe taller.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

UP NEXT FOR JONES

Long jump

Final, Today

400-meter relay

Final, Saturday

1,600-meter relay

Final, Saturday

*

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

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