Work in Sports
Track's Big Three use special talents for similar success
Posted: Sunday April 30, 2000 04:16 PM
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Marion Jones, Maurice Greene and Michael Johnson -- the Big Three of track and field in the United States -- have special traits that separate them from their competition.
"It's her attitude," sprinter Nanceen Perry said of Jones, who plans to go for a record five gold medals in the Olympic Games in September. "She doesn't have a lot of ego. Her heart sets her apart for me.
"She pushes me a lot. She pushes all of us a lot. She is the competition. Everyone knows she's the best. It's good that she is going for five gold medals."
No track and field athlete has won five gold medals at one games, but Jones has designs on winning golds in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, the long jump, and the 400- and 1,600-meter relays.
For Greene and Johnson, the goal is three golds each, but that won't be possible for one of them because both are running the 200. Greene's other events are the 100 and 400 relay, while Johnson is going for the 400 and 1,600 relay.
One of Greene's biggest assets is his confidence, which began soaring after he won the 1997 world 100-meter title.
"He got into a momentum, into a roll," training partner Jon Drummond said. "When you're running fast, you put the pressure on everyone else.
"Maurice is a very confident person."
Johnson's defining trait is the high expectation he has of himself. That was evident when he ran 19.71 seconds for the 200 in South Africa earlier this season.
"He said that was only four-tenths of a second off my PR (personal record)," said his financial adviser, Brad Hunt. "He said that's where I expect to be. That was the first time I ever heard him make reference to his 19.32."
The 19.32 was the world record Johnson set at the 1996 Olympics.
"That's what he's looking for," Hunt said. "He said that's what I know I'm capable of. If a 19.9 guy runs 20.3, why make a big deal out of a 19.3 guy who runs 19.7? But he put the bar out there. In his mind, the 19.3 is his capability, not a fluke."
Jones, Greene and Johnson displayed their talents at the Penn Relays Saturday and electrified a crowd of 45,203 at Franklin Field by helping U.S. teams to a sweep of six relays in a format billed as the USA vs. the World.
Jones and Greene anchored 400- and 800-meter teams, while Johnson anchored a 1,600-meter team.
The most dynamic performance was the women's 800 as the team of LaTasha Jenkins, LaTasha Colander-Richardson, Perry and Jones smashed the world record with a time of 1:27.46.
"I knew that when I got the baton, there probably wouldn't be anyone in front of me," Jones said. "It was wonderful coming off that turn. It's so exciting when you get that baton and you hear the people in the stands `oohing' and `aahing.' You just want to bring it on home."
With the boisterous crowd chanting, "USA! USA! USA!," Jones finished more than 5.5 seconds ahead of the second-place team, also from the United States.
"The handoffs weren't great, but that just goes to show that if they were, we could have been that much faster."
The handoffs weren't perfect because the team was assembled shortly before the race, just like the other U.S. relay teams.
In the 400 relay, Jones' team, including Chryste Gaines, Torri Edwards and 200 world champion Inger Miller, won in 42.33, the fastest ever at Franklin Field.
Greene's 400 relay team, with Drummond, Tim Harden and Tim Montgomery, also set a stadium record, winning in 38.22, as Greene overcame a one-meter deficit to Rohsaan Griffin, the anchor on the other U.S. team, and beat him by two meters.
The 800 relay team of Ken Brokenburr, Bryan Howard, Griffin and Greene ran 1:19.92.
Like Johnson, Greene is thinking about breaking a world record this year, his 9.79 in the 100.
"I believe I can go 9.76," he said. "My coach (John Smith) believes I can go 9.6."
Johnson anchored the team of Angelo Taylor, Antonio Pettigrew and Tyree Washington to a stadium record and world-leading 2:56.60 victory in the 1,600 relay.
"Today wasn't about getting a world record," Johnson said after the team missed the record by less than three seconds. "This was an opportunity to entertain the crowd and have fun. Mission accomplished."
Jearl Miles Clark anchored the women's 1,600 relay team to victory in 3:25.96.
The world opposition included teams from Jamaica, Nigeria, the Bahamas, Thailand and Sierra Leone, not a true representation of the teams the Americans will be facing at the Sydney Games.
Among the collegians, TCU became the first men's team since 1977 to sweep the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays, setting a collegiate record of 1:19.67 in the 800. Arkansas men won titles in the 4-mile and shuttle hurdles relay, while South Carolina (800 and 1,600) and LSU (400 and shuttle hurdles) each won two among the women.