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Archive for Monday, July 17, 2000

Joyner-Kersee sees Olympic bid slip away

July 17, 2000

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— Marion Jones' drive for five is alive, Jackie Joyner-Kersee's is not.

Jones nearly missed out on making the finals of the long jump in the U.S. Olympic trials Sunday, then rebounded to win the competition. That kept intact her bid to become the first track and field athlete to win five gold medals in one Olympics.

The 38-year-old Joyner-Kersee, the 1988 Olympic gold medalist and winner of six Olympic medals more than any female track and field athlete failed in her attempt to make a record-tying fifth Olympic team.

Jones, after fouling on her first two attempts in the preliminaries, soared 22 feet, 13/4 inches to reach the final. After leaping into the lead on her fourth try with a wind-aided 22-7, then being overtaken by Dawn Burrell at 22-10 later in round four, Jones responded with the winning jump of 23-01/2, her best in a year.

"I've been waiting for that jump all year," Jones said. "That it came at the Olympic trials is great. I'll be ready for Sydney.

"Knowing in my heart that I can jump very far and run very fast, that's what motivates me."

Jones, encouraged by Joyner-Kersee throughout the competition, knew she was in trouble before her third jump.

"I thought I have one more shot and if I don't get it, it will be over," she said.

Joyner-Kersee had confidence that Jones would not foul out.

"When we were standing there talking, she wasn't concerned," Joyner-Kersee said. "She knew exactly what to do. If you're going to be the best in the world, you can't be worried about what you have to do to execute. She knew she was going to get that jump."

Jones took her first step toward the unprecedented five-gold medal haul by winning Saturday's 100 meters. She will try and complete a trials triple by winning the 200 next weekend.

At the games, her five-event performance also would include the 400 and 1,600 relay.

While Jones appeared full of energy, Joyner-Kersee, the sentimental favorite of the capacity crowd of about 23,503, couldn't cope with the sapping heat and her two years of inactivity.

After making the final in fourth place at 21-103/4, Joyner-Kersee didn't come close to duplicating that distance. On her first attempt in the final, she went 20-111/4, then passed and completed her fruitless comeback by running through the pit on her final try in apparent discomfort. She wound up sixth overall.

"The reason I'm not disappointed is I've been to four Olympics," Joyner-Kersee said. "I was hoping to go to five, but it didn't pan out.

"I thought we could do it ... I thought we could give it one more shot. I couldn't afford to take all the jumps I was taking but I needed to make it to the next round. Before the fourth attempt, I felt something in my left leg."

Joyner-Kersee apparently was bothered by a hamstring injury.

"In the middle of the (sixth) run, it just wasn't there, so that was it," she said, explaining her run through the pit.

Michael Johnson, attempting to make history like Jones, won the men's 400 at 43.68 seconds, the world's fastest time this year, meaning he will have a shot to become the first Olympian to win that event twice.

Johnson, also the world record-holder in the 400 and 200, will go for a sweep of those events at the trials. If he wins that event, he also would have the opportunity to win both at the games, something no one ever has done.

"I'm relieved," Johnson said. "I'm on the Olympic team and all that money I spent on tickets for my parents won't go to waste.

"I wasn't trying to run any spectacular time today, I was just trying to win the race. There's no reason to take a risk at the Olympic trials."

The men's and women's 1,500 also produced some scintillating times.

Regina Jacobs made her fourth Olympic team in the women's 1,500, winning her third consecutive trials title at 4:01.01, the third-fastest in the world this year.

Jacobs, 36, outdueled her longtime rival, Suzy Favor, down the stretch. Favor, the second-fastest in the world this year, was second at 4:01.81, while Marla Runyan, the legally blind runner, earned the final spot on the 1,500 team, placing third at 4:06.44.

"It's very awesome," Runyan said.

"I think my vision is just a circumstance that happened and I don't look at it as a barrier.

"I never said I want to be the first legally blind runner to make the Olympics. I just wanted to be an Olympian."

Gabe Jennings, the NCAA champion from Stanford, took the men's 1,500. He ran away from the field in winning at 3:35.90, the fastest by an American this year.

Jason Pyrah finished second at 3:36.70 and Michael Stember, Jennings' teammate on the NCAA championship Stanford team, was third at 3:37.04. Stember, however, has not yet met the Olympic qualifying standard of 3:37. He will have until September to get below that mark.

For the first time since the 1936 trials, there was a jumpoff for a team berth not one jumpoff but two.

The first was in the men's pole vault, where Lawrence Johnson won at 19-11/2 and Nick Hysong was second at 18-91/2. Then, Chad Harting beat Derek Miles and Pat Manson in the jumpoff.

In the women's high jump, Karol Damon and Erin Aldrich clinched spots on the team by clearing 6-4, Amy Acuff beat Tisha Waller for the third spot in the jumpoff.

Latasha Colander-Richardson won the women's 400 with a career-best 49.87, beating 1993 world champion Jearl Miles-Clark, the runner-up at 50.23. Michelle Collins got the final Olympic berth, finishing third at 50.29, while 17-year-old high school sensation Monique Henderson of San Diego was eighth at 51.79.

Michelle Rohl, the American record-holder in the 20-kilometer walk, won the event at 1:32:39 as the top three finishers all qualified for the Sydney Games.

Chen Yueling, the 1992 Olympic 10K gold medalist for China who returned to competition this season after a six-year absence, finished second at 1:33:40, and Debbi Lawrence, who has competed in the games in the 10K walk, was third at 1:33:48.

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