Work in Sports
Setting the pace
Jones, Greene get out fast in Olympic track trials
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The dream goes on for Jackie Joyner-Kersee. It also goes on for Marion Jones.
Joyner-Kersee, the most decorated U.S. woman in Olympic track and field history with six medals, including three golds, returned to competition after a two-year absence Friday night and qualified for the long jump final in the U.S. Olympic trials.
The popular 38-year-old star, who was voted the outstanding women's athlete of the 20th century, was accorded a rousing ovation by the capacity crowd of 23,211 at hot and humid Sacramento State's Hornet Stadium after her third and final jump.
Joyner-Kersee is bidding for her fifth Olympic team, an accomplishment that would equal the American record for a woman's track and field athlete, held by another long jumper, Willye White.
Having practiced little since her retirement in 1998, the rusty Joyner-Kersee showed only traces of the form that enabled her to win the 1988 Olymic gold medal and set the American record of 24 feet, 7 inches.
Her best jump came on her final attempt, 21-03/4. Before that, she leaped 20-73/4, then fouled, running through the pit.
"I'm very rusty," the weary Joyner-Kersee said. "Couldn't you tell? The door is squeaking."
The indomitable Jones, chasing a record five Olympic gold medals, blasted through her first-round heat in the 100 meters in 10.92 seconds, only 0.08 seconds off her world-leading time this year, then joined Joyner-Kersee in Sunday's long jump final, soaring 21-63/4 twice before fouling.
Jones said she would not hold much back in the 100 heats and she didn't.
Neither did Maurice Greene. He didn't say it, but he showed what a force he would be in the men's 100.
Greene, who failed to make the 1996 team, then sobbed inconsolably while watching the Olympic final in the stands at Atlanta, burst out of the blocks with the force of a rocket and won his heat in 9.93, only 0.02 seconds off his world-best this season.
As usual, Jones was slow out of the blocks in the 100, but by 30 meters she had forged to the front, and at the 50-meter mark she was comfortably ahead. Only near the finish did she slow slightly.
"I think everybody just wanted to go out there and get started," the two-time world champion said. "We're tired of all the talking."
The long jump is the weakest of Jones' event, and her technical shortcomings were evident even though she had the fifth-best jump among the qualifiers.
Jones will run the 100 semifinals and final Saturday. Next weekend, she will compete in the 200 as she bids to surpass the record of four Olympic golds by Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis and Fanny Blankers-Koen.
While Jones was the fastest qualifier in the 100, her major rivals showed they weren't conceding anything to her.
Gail Devers, the two-time Olympic gold medalist, broke 11 seconds for the first time this year, winning her heat at 10.99, and Inger Miller, the silver medalist and 200 champion in last year's World Championships, took her heat at 11.04 despite a very slow start.
"I have to remember I've been here before and not panic," said Devers, who also is the world leader in the 100 hurdles this year.
Miller, who has bragged that she will block Jones' quest for five golds, noted the strength of the 100 field.
"Some of the younger girls are looking good and the older ones are in tip-top form," said Miller, the daughter of Jamaican Olympic silver and bronze medalist Lennox Miller.
One of the younger ones advancing was Angela Manuel. The daughter of Chicago White Sox manager Jerry Manuel finished third behind Jones at 11.31.
Greene, the world record-holder, two-time world champion and 1999 world 200 champion, showed no weaknesses in his heat. Charging right out from the start, he had the field beaten easily about halfway through the race, before easing some 20 meters from the finish.
"I think a lot of people thought I came here not ready to run," Greene said. "I'm here to show that I am.
"Just because I lost a couple of races - that's practice. Now it's showtime!"
Greene took exception to a story by Michael Johnson saying that he was not motivated.
"He thinks that nobody can beat him, but we will see what happens next week," Greene said about his expected showdown against the world record-holder and Olympic gold medalist in the 200.
The men's 100 semifinals and final also are Saturday.
Johnson, seeking a second straight Olympic double in the 200 and 400, charged to the front quickly in the opening round of the 400 heats and appeared to lope the rest of the way in winning at a relatively slow 45.16.
While Johnson's time was the fastest in the six heats, former world record-holder Butch Reynolds had the slowest time, 47.79.
Jones' husband, C.J. Hunter, the 1999 world shot put champion and the world leader this year, qualified automatically for Saturday's final with a heave of 65-81/4.
Adam Nelson, No. 2 in the world this year, had the longest qualifying throw, 68-33/4. John Godina, the 1996 Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion, qualified at 65-31/2.
Regina Jacobs, the three-time Olympian and two-time world silver medalist at 1,500 meters, broke away with 200 meters remaining and won her heat at 4:06.16, but the most heartwarming story was the second-place finish of Marla Runyan.
Runyan is trying to become the first legally blind athlete to make a U.S. Olympic team.
"I hadn't run in five weeks," Runyan, who has been nursing an ailing left leg, said as she hobbled off the track. 'I couldn't bend my knee. I missed some important training (from June 8-July 5).
"I was considering a week ago of pulling out of the trials."