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Jones set to shoot for five

Posted: Tuesday, July 25, 2000

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Five gold medals in one Olympic Games?

Impossible?

Not for Marion Jones.

The Superwoman of track and field has said for two years she wants five.

Skeptics questioned her.

-- She's too young, they said.

-- No woman has ever won five, so why does she think she can? She went for four at last year's World Championships and wound up with one. Florence Griffith Joyner tried for four at the Olympics and got three.

-- She can't long jump consistently.

-- The schedule is too tough.

Forget all those negatives. Jones is on target, at least for now, for five.

She survived a strenuous U.S. Olympic trials by winning the 100 and 200 meters and long jump, giving her three spots on the U.S. team. In addition, she will run the 400 and 1,600 relays at Sydney.

At 5-foot-10 and a solid 140 pounds, Jones is big enough and strong enough to survive at the Olympics, where the temperature is not expected to be as hot as the 90-degree days in Sacramento. She also is smart enough and cool enough to shrug off Olympic pressure.

At Sydney, the only extra running she will be required to do will be one more round each in the 100 and 200, plus the 400 and 1,600 relay finals. The relays were not contested at the trials.

The way she competed at the trials, she appears to be a certainty to win the 100 and 200. Nobody in the world has run faster than her in those events this year, and only FloJo ran faster than Jones' career bests.

In the relays, she probably will run the anchor legs, and again her speed is unquestioned.

Only in the long jump is there uncertainty.

Her fluctuation is that event is so wild that she could win or not even make the final.

''I've always been the first one to say that going for the five events is not going to be easy,'' she said Sunday, the final day of the trials at Sacramento State's Hornet Stadium. ''It's going to be very hard.

''But I don't even want to think about accomplishments here. I want to run faster and jump higher.''

Between now and the Olympics, Jones will be the major focus of the games, much more so than Michael Johnson and Maurice Greene, the world's two best men's sprinters who dominated the trials with their trash-talking before both came up lame in the 200 final.

If healthy, Johnson and Greene will be competing in only two events, one individual and one relay

''When we originally considered doing this, we weren't thinking about history,'' Jones said of her quest for five.

History will be made, though, if she accomplishes her goal.

Only one women's track athlete -- Fanny Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands in 1948 -- has won as many as four gold medals in one Olympics.

Should Jones surpass Blankers-Koen, she would reach sport's highest pedestal.

The executive director of USA Track & Field, Craig Masback, has said Jones has a chance to join Pele, Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan as international athletes who completely transcend their sports.

If Jones wins five, she also would surpass the totals of the entire U.S. women's teams at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. Eight years ago, the women's team won three golds; four years ago it won four.

The best the women ever have done is seven golds in 1984, when the Soviet Union and most of its allies boycotted the Los Angeles Games. There is a good possibility to equal or pass that total this year.

In addition to Jones and the relays, the top contenders include world record-holder Stacy Dragila in the pole vault; 2000 world leader Gail Devers in the 100 hurdles; world record-holder and 1996 silver medalist Kim Batten, 1996 bronze medalist and No. 2 all-time Tonja Buford-Bailey and 2000 world leader Sandra Glover in the 400 hurdles; 5,000-meter American record-holder Regina Jacobs in that event and the 1,500, if she chooses to run both; and Inger Miller, the 200 world champion, in the 100 and 200 against Jones.

The U.S. men might be hard-pressed to exceed their 10 gold medals of 1996, the most since 1968, especially with neither Johnson nor Greene in the 200.

If Greene recuperates, he should win the 100, in which he is the world record-holder and two-time world champion.

Johnson, the world record-holder and Olympic gold medalist in the 400, also will be a prohibitive favorite in that event, and the Americans will be favored in both relays, as long as they don't drop the baton in the 400, which they have been prone to do.

Other gold medal possibilities are defending Olympic champion Allen Johnson and silver medalist Mark Crear in the 110 hurdles; 1996 champion Charles Austin in the high jump; 70-foot shot putters Adam Nelson, C.J. Hunter -- Jones' husband -- and Andy Bloom; 2000 world leader Angelo Taylor in the 400 hurdles; world champion Anthony Washington in the discus; 1996 silver medalist Lance Deal in the hammer throw; and 200 trials champion John Capel.

Dragila set the only world record at the trials (15 feet, 2 1/4 inches). Five American records also were set -- Dragila; Devers (12.33 seconds); Jacobs in the 5,000 (14:45.35); Lynda Blutreich in the women's javelin (191-2); and Elizabeth Jackson in the women's 3,000 steeplechase, a non-Olympic event (9:57.20).



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