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Sunday, October 1, 2000
Bahamas Mamas

Caribbean gals upset U.S. in 4x100 relay

By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

 SYDNEY - So, Marion, how does it feel to be a failure?

 Only three gold.

 At last count, sixty-nine countries involved had won medals at these Olympic Games and only 36 of them had won more medals than Marion Jones's personal count of three gold and two bronze at Sydney 2000.

 That's one more medal than New Zealand, two more than Austria, three more than Nigeria and four more than India at last look.

 After failing in her 'Drive For Five' golds by settling for bronze in the long jump the night before, the athletics press centre was a comparatively deserted place as Jones went for her last two medals with nowhere near the notice she'd been receiving daily during the Olympic track meet.

 The girl had just set an Olympic record for medals. No woman had ever won five medals, of any hue, on the track in Olympic history.

 And yet she sat there when it was all over, in an interview room with empty chairs for the first time in the Olympics, and expressed disappointment.

 "I can sit here and say I'm very happy I joined these girls for the 4x400,'' she said of her third gold. "But I still feel in my heart that I could have won that long jump. And I was disappointed the way the 4 x 100 worked out. My state of mind was a little bit depressed after the 4x100. But then I saw this group of teammates counting on me and I put it out of my head.''

 Marion Jones's greatest accomplishment here may have been putting things out of her head.

 She managed to leave the positive drug test of her husband, C.J. Hunter, at home and handled herself with grace throughout the Games.

 "Everything that was off the track was just that,'' she said. "I kept it off the track. I just refused to let something ruin it.''

 There was no way Jones could find fault with either event here like she did with her long jump.

 She ran the third leg for the gold, taking the baton with the Americans two metres in the lead and giving them a 20-metre lead to make the last lap.

 "On that last curve, I was surprised how good I felt,'' said Jones. "I thought that would be the place where these legs were going to say 'No more, Marion, no more.'

 "I hadn't run a 4x400 since my sophomore year in college.''

 She looked so good, in fact, she was asked if she was thinking of running the 400 metres as an individual event.

 "No desire to do that,'' she said.

 "I have other challenges in my career. Like the long jump.''

 Jones brought the American 4x100 relay team, minus both Inger Miller and Gail Devers, back from fifth place after a bad baton pass to very much "win'' the bronze. Jones was the only reason the Americans ended up in the show position behind the Bahamas Mamas as Pauline Davis-Thompson predicted to Jones's face at the 200-metre podium press conference a couple of nights earlier.

 "We are the world champions and now the Olympic champions,'' said Davis-Thompson, a five-time Olympian who had never won a medal before but won two of her nation's three medals at this Olympics and broke the Americans' four-Olympic winning streak in the event.

 "Everyone said it was a fluke we won before, but we showed them again. We showed the United States, the whole world, how powerful the Bahamas are.

 "Everyone thought that the USA was unbeatable with Marion on the team. But we showed them tonight,'' she said of the country 30 miles off the Florida coast with a population of 275,000.

 Bahamas winning gold was a whole lot better story than the Jones girl's bronze. Even the silver medal story had more sizzle.

 Merlene Ottey, not allowed to run in last year's Worlds in Seville because of a drug bust, was a controversial story when the IAAF lifted her suspension so the woman they'd called The Queen Of The Caribbean could compete in her last Olympics. She ran anchor for silver-medal-winning Jamaica.

 Ottey held off the charge by Jones to get the silver, her third Olympic silver medal to go with five bronze.

 Ottey, in her sixth Olympics, has now won eight Olympic medals, the most by any female athlete ever.

 Best Merlene enjoy the claim to fame now. It ought not last long. Marion Jones could end up with more Olympic golds, career, than Ottey has medals.

 The next Worlds are in Edmonton. And in case you're wondering ...

 "I don't know,'' said Jones of going for five golds again. "I think this was a great experience and I'm really enjoying this gold right now. I'm not going to make any decisions for the future until I take some time off.''
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