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Out of the Limelight, Jones Ready to Go

Five-time medalist who's the target of a drug probe advances to the long jump final and secures a spot in the relay semifinals.

August 26, 2004|Helene Elliott | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — Marion Jones began her Olympics here Wednesday, the 13th day of the Games, and got two pieces of good news: She easily advanced to the long jump final and she was chosen to run in the semifinals of the women's 400-meter relay today.

Jones, who didn't qualify for the U.S. team in the 100 and withdrew from the 200 trials, will run the second relay leg. Angela Williams, a four-time NCAA champion at USC, will lead off, followed by Jones, 100-meter silver medalist Lauryn Williams and 100-meter finalist LaTasha Colander.

Jones' participation had been in doubt because she's being investigated for possible doping infractions, an offshoot of the doping scandal shaking the sport. She has not been charged with anything and has said she has never taken banned substances, but if she ran and was later found to have committed a violation, everyone who ran a round of the relay could lose any medal won.

In contrast with a high-profile and ambitious chase for five gold medals that made her the face of the Sydney Olympics, Jones came to Athens late and with less on her plate. She's also a mom. She has a 14-month-old son with sprinter Tim Montgomery, who faces a lifetime ban from competition because of alleged doping offenses.

"I'm in a different space now," said Jones, who fouled on her first jump Wednesday but soared 6.70 meters (21 feet 11 3/4 inches) to surpass the qualifying standard on her second jump. She skipped her third turn.

"I'm just looking forward to jumping Friday and getting on a plane Saturday and seeing my little boy," Jones said.

"I was so excited to finally have the competition underway. I was watching and cheering on my friends and teammates. I want to make sure I take it all in. You never get that moment again. I'm just happy to be in the final and I'm ready to go. I've had all this energy built up since [the Olympic trials in] Sacramento."

Grace Upshaw of the U.S. also advanced to Friday's long jump final.

In other key events Wednesday:

* All three U.S. men advanced to the pole vault finals. Toby Stevenson of Chula Vista met the standard of 5.70 meters (18 feet 8 1/2 inches) on his first attempt, but it took Olympic trials champion Tim Mack of Knoxville, Tenn., two tries. Derek Miles of Sacramento needed three tries before he cleared that height. The final is scheduled for Friday.

* Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco, who won the 1,500 on Tuesday, qualified for the 5,000-meter final in 13:21.16. Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele, the gold medalist in the 10,000, will also chase a second gold medal Saturday.

* Wilson Kipketer, a Kenyan now running for Denmark, had the fastest time in the first round of the men's 800, 1:44.69. Jonathan Johnson of the U.S. had the sixth-best time, 1:45.31.

* Olga Kuzenkova of Russia won the women's hammer throw gold medal with an Olympic-record heave of 75.02 meters (246 feet 1 inch).

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