SACRAMENTO, Calif. Perhaps it was the stress of fighting doping allegations. Maybe it was the physical and emotional strains of motherhood. Or perhaps time, and a new generation of sprinters, are finally catching up with her.
Marion Jones failed to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in the 100 meters Saturday night, losing out on a chance to defend her gold medal in her signature event at the Athens Games.
Jones started quickly but seemed to struggle as the race progressed and finished fifth in the final at the U.S. Olympic trials. The top three finishers automatically make the team.
Jones, who won five medals at the 2000 Sydney Games, still can make the Olympic team if she qualifies in the 200 meters or long jump. Or she could be picked for a relay team.
The defeat comes at a difficult time for perhaps the biggest U.S. Olympic star. She is under investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, although she has repeatedly denied using drugs and has not been charged by USADA.
The 28-year-old Jones, who seemed a little stunned in the last few strides of the race as she realized she was not going to qualify, walked off the track smiling and even signed a couple of autographs for fans. But she walked quickly past a horde of reporters.
Jones, known for her bubbly personality and media savvy, was escorted by a personal bodyguard as she stormed off the track without answering questions.
''When I talk, you guys have something negative to say. When I don't talk, you have something negative to say,'' she said. ''I'd rather not talk and spend the time with my son.''
Jones has a 1-year-old son with Tim Montgomery, the world record holder in the men's 100.
LaTasha Colander won the final in 10.97 seconds, tied for second fastest in the world this year. World champion Torri Edwards was second in 11.02 and NCAA champion Lauryn Williams took the third Olympic spot in 11.10.
Gail Devers, a two-time Olympic champion in the 100, was fourth in 11.11, followed by Jones in 11.14.
Jones once dominated the 100. In addition to being the reigning Olympic champion, she is a former two-time world champion and had a streak of 42 straight wins in finals from 1997 to 2001.
Jones' boyfriend, Montgomery, advanced to the semifinals of the men's 100 by finishing fourth in his quarterfinal heat with a time of 10.16 seconds.
Montgomery has been charged with steroid use by USADA and faces a lifetime ban if found guilty.
Even if he makes the U.S. team, he still must await a ruling in his case by the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport. If the CAS rules against him, Montgomery would be barred from the Athens Games.
The fastest time in the men's 100 quarterfinals was 10.00 by Shawn Crawford, followed by John Capel in 10.01. Third fastest was reigning Olympic champ Maurice Greene (10.06), who is back in top form after two years of lackluster results.
Greene used to hold the world record of 9.79 until Montgomery broke that by a hundredth of a second in 2002. If Montgomery is found guilty of doping, he likely will forfeit the world record and it will revert to Greene.
Olympic silver medalist Adam Nelson won the shot put with a mark of 71 feet, and was joined on the U.S. squad by Reese Hoffa and John Godina. Godina will be competing in his third Olympics he won silver in 1996 and bronze in 2000.
Christian Cantwell, who has the four longest throws in the world this season, finished fourth and failed to qualify for the Olympics. He fouled on five of his six attempts.
Shelia Burrell won the heptathlon. Joining her on the U.S. team for the Athens Games will be Tiffany Lott-Hogan, who finished second Saturday, and Michelle Perry.
Chryste Gaines, who along with Montgomery is among the four sprinters charged with steroid use by USADA, finished fifth in her 100 semifinal and did not qualify for the final.
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