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Five-Gone Conclusion

Track and field: Jones wins long jump bronze, which isn't as stunning as El Guerrouj's silver.


SYDNEY, Australia — So Marion Jones didn't win the Olympic long jump. So the drive for five ended before she could soar for four. So Nike loses a little money, NBC loses some weekend ratings and USA Track and Field loses a marketing gambit it probably would have squandered anyway.

"I'm disappointed in myself," Jones said after fouling four times in six attempts Friday and finishing with the bronze medal. "I let myself down today."

Contrast that to Morocco's poor Hicham El Guerrouj, who nearly ran an Olympic record and nearly won the men's 1,500-meter gold medal and nearly had an emotional breakdown after being asked in his news conference how he would explain to 30 million Moroccans how he failed them all Friday.

Gulping hard and pausing more than once to wipe away anguished tears, El Guerrouj pleaded for his countrymen to "still trust in me. They need to trust in my skills and my qualities."

The world-record holder and two-time world champion in the event, El Guerrouj was running with a sore thigh he injured during the semifinals, which became evident when he was caught and passed in the last 20 meters by Kenya's Noah Ngeny. Ngeny ran an Olympic-record time of 3 minutes 32.07, just ahead of El Guerrouj's 3:32.32. Bernard Lagat of Kenya won the bronze.

It was El Guerrouj's first defeat at 1,500 meters since 1997.

"Perhaps I am not as fit as I should be," El Guerrouj said. "I am still Hicham. You have to trust in me. You saw [Denmark's Wilson] Kipketer lose in the 800 meters. He is still Kipketer. You saw others [fall short of expectations]. They are still the same. . . ."

El Guerrouj's voice cracked and he dabbed his eyes with a tissue. He looked at Ngeny, seated to his immediate left.

"I'd like to congratulate my friend on his victory," El Guerrouj said. "He ran a beautiful race."


If Jones was feeling any as she stomped, again and again, on the red board, it was wholly self-imposed. She has already had the best track meet of any athlete in Sydney, doubling in the women's 100 and 200 meters. By any standards except her own, Jones' Olympics have been a rousing success.

But because she jumped only 22 feet 8 1/2 inches when Germany's Heike Drechsler jumped 22-11 1/4 and because two gold medals is only 40% of five, Jones hesitated when she was asked if she was "having fun" in Sydney.

"Fun is winning," Jones replied with a strained smile. "That's what it comes down to.

"Overall, I think I'll look back on my Sydney experience and say it was a very good experience. Especially if we win the relays. I don't know. Winning is fun.

"I think I'll leave it at that."

El Guerrouj didn't have that option. Try as he might, the African media wouldn't allow him to leave it at that.

The Moroccan distance legend has spent the last four years trying to live down his first appearance in an Olympic 1,500-meter final, when he tripped on the heel of Algeria's Noureddine Morceli and fell to the track during the final lap. "The black hole of my life," El Guerrouj had called the fall.

Until, perhaps, he was forced to meet the press here after finishing second.

Over and over, El Guerrouj was asked, in various forms of the same question, how he could have possibly lost.

"Unfortunately, it was not one of my great races," he said. "The Olympics were later in the year this time and there was a lot of pressure from Morocco and the king, waiting for this year ever since Atlanta."


"You know, in Morocco, everybody has been following the Olympic Games after my fall in Atlanta," he said. "They all expected me to win. Our king, he follows athletics, he loves athletics. Everybody on television talks about Hicham. It is a lot of pressure.

"Before I got to the stadium today, I started to cry. My coach and my manager told me to stop weeping.

"I'm young. I'm 26. For Athens [site of the 2004 Games] I will be there and I will be 30. I am not an Olympic champion today. Let me wait four years."

El Guerrouj ran more than 6 1/2 seconds slower than his world-record time of 3:26.00, set in Rome in 1998. More striking, however, was his fadeaway down the stretch. Instead of his trademark driving kick, El Guerrouj not only failed to pull away from Ngeny, he allowed the Kenyan to churn past him only strides from the finish.

Obviously, something wasn't right, although El Guerrouj refused to use his injury as an alibi.

"After a defeat, there is no excuse," El Guerrouj said. "Yes, I had a slight injury. But it is no excuse.

"Today I lost. Noah is No. 1, I was No. 2. That's that."

The women's long jump final also faded at the finish, with the leaders combining for more fouls than a fourth quarter between the Lakers and the Trail Blazers.

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