Jones finally has reason to smile

Posted: Friday, July 16, 2004

SACRAMENTO, Calif. Marion Jones finally allowed herself to smile. And even to sob.

Showing her familiar athleticism, Jones needed just two jumps Thursday night to wipe out many of the doubts about her chances at the Summer Olympics or whether she'd even make it to Athens.

The sudden revival was enough to bring back her trademark smile after weeks of battling drug accusations and struggling to regain the form that earned her five medals at the 2000 Sydney Games.

The smile did not come easily, and Jones refused to talk to reporters after the competition.

But she did talk briefly with a microphone to the crowd after accepting her winner's medal, and offered a mix of emotions.

''I think I had just a little bit of motivation,'' she said, laughing so hard her body bent forward. ''It feels really good. I had fun out there.

''So many people told me, 'Marion have fun.' It was very hard to keep it together today,'' she said, her voice cracking as she began to sob.

Jones then walked past the main stands and left the stadium through a side entrance, avoiding the crowd of reporters awaiting the news conference that is routine for event winners.

Jones had no expression at all during the competition, even as she was jumping nearly a foot farther than any other competitor.

Jones, wearing a yellow body suit with racing stripes down the sides, leaped 22 feet, 3 3/4 inches on her first attempt in the final, the best jump of the first round.

Her second jump was even better 23-4, the second-longest jump in the world this year. It was her longest jump since 1998. She briefly nodded at her mark in the sand, then walked away expressionless.

Three nights after being unable to reach 21 feet on any of her three jumps in the qualifying round, Jones surpassed 22 feet on all six jumps Thursday in winning the competition. Grace Upshaw and Akiba McKinney claimed the other spots on the U.S. team.

After her final jump, Jones raised both arms and flashed a big smile as she bowed to the crowd. Then she jogged over to hug Upshaw, and waved again to the crowd.

Jones, who begins her bid Friday to qualify in the 200 an event in which she is the reigning Olympic champion later released a statement through USA Track & Field.

''I'm very happy with my performance tonight,'' the statement said. ''I'm excited about making my second Olympic team, and look forward to going to Athens.''

Her impressive jumps were the first bits of good news for Jones in a while.

She is being investigated by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, though she has not been charged with doping and has repeatedly proclaimed she has never used performance-enhancing drugs.

Her boyfriend, Tim Montgomery, failed to qualify for the Olympics in the 100 despite holding the world record in that event. He has been charged by USADA with steroid use and faces a lifetime ban if found guilty by an international arbitration panel.

And she finished fifth in the 100 meters Saturday night at the Olympic trials, failing to earn a place on the U.S. squad in an event in which she is the defending champion.

''She had a few days to recover from all the 100s, both physically, mentally and emotionally,'' said her coach, Dan Pfaff.

Because of an off-the-track development, there's now a chance that Jones may get to defend her Olympic title in that event.

Torri Edwards, who finished second in the 100 at the Olympic trials, tested positive for a banned stimulant in April and could face a 2-year suspension that would prevent her from competing in Athens.

Edwards says she unknowingly took the substance at a meet in Martinique, and that she will try to argue for a lesser penalty during an arbitration hearing next Monday.

If her appeal fails and she is banned from the Olympics, her spot in the 100 would go to two-time Olympic 100 champion Gail Devers who finished fourth Saturday. But Devers always has wanted to win an Olympic title in the 100-meter hurdles, so she conceivably could pass up the chance to run in the 100 to focus on the hurdles.

In that case, Edwards' spot would go to the fifth-place finisher in the Olympic trials Jones.

Jeremy Wariner won the men's 400 in 44.37 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. He will be joined in Athens by Otis Harris and Derrick Brew. Calvin Harrison, who faces a two-year suspension if found guilty of two drug infractions, finished fifth.

Erin Gilreath won the women's hammer throw. Daniel Lincoln won the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase in 8:15.02. And Ann Gaffigan won the women's steeplechase, which is not an Olympic event, in an American-record 9:39.35.

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