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Sunday, October 1, 2000
Medal queen

Some nations can't keep up with Jones

By TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

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

 Only three gold.

 At last count, 69 countries had won medals at these Olympic Games and only 36 of those had won more medals than Marion Jones' personal count of three gold and two bronze.

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

 After failing the night before in her drive for five golds by settling for bronze in the long jump, the athletics press centre was a comparatively deserted place. Jones went for her last two medals with nowhere near the notice she received earlier in 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 an Olympic track.

 And when it was all over, in an interview room with empty chairs for the first time in the Olympics, she expressed some 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 4x100 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.''

 Jones' greatest accomplishment in Sydney may have been putting things out of her head. She managed to leave the positive drug test of 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 relay event, as she had done with her long jump.

 She ran the third leg for the 4x400 gold, taking the baton with the Americans two metres ahead and giving them a 20-metre lead going into the final lap.

 "On that last curve, I was surprised how good I felt,'' Jones said. "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,'' 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 Bahama Mamas, just as Pauline Davis-Thompson had predicted to Jones' 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 capturing two of the Bahamas' three at this Olympics. "Everyone said it was a fluke we won before, but we showed them again. We showed the whole world how powerful the Bahamas are.

 "Everyone thought the U.S. was unbeatable with Marion. But we showed them."

 Bahamas, which broke the Americans four-Olympic winning streak, winning gold was a much better story than the Jones' girls capturing bronze.

 Even the silver-medal story had more sizzle. Merlene Ottey, not allowed to run in last year's worlds because of a drug bust, was a controversial story when the IAAF lifted her suspension in time for her final Olympics. She ran anchor for silver medal-winning Jamaican team.

 Ottey held off the charge by Jones to get the silver, her third Olympic silver medal to go with five bronze. Her eight medals are the most by any female track athlete.

 Best Merlene enjoy the claim to fame while she can. Jones could end up with more golds than Ottey has medals.

 As for chasing five golds at the 2001 worlds in Edmonton, Jones was non-committal. "I'm not going to make any decisions until I take some time off.''
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