Work in Sports
Burning up the track
Jones, Greene pass first test for Sydney in the 100M
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Shades of Florence Griffith Joyner and Carl Lewis.
That's how well Marion Jones and Maurice Greene performed Saturday night in winning the women's and men's 100-meter dashes in the U.S. Olympic track and field trials.
While their winning times don't appear spectacular - Jones finished in 10.88 seconds and Greene in 10.01 - there were extenuating circumstances.
Jones, the second-fastest women's sprinter in history, behind only FloJo, ran into a headwind of 2.24 mph, making her time one of the fastest under those conditions.
Greene, the world record-holder at 9.79 and hoping to eventually surpass Lewis' accomplishments, ran into an even stronger wind - 3.80 mph - making his performance the best under such adverse conditions.
Jones, who qualified for the 1992 Olympic team as a relay alternate while in high school but turned down the opportunity because she wanted to run an individual race, now will have that golden opportunity at Sydney.
This was Jones' first step in her quest to win a record five Olympic golds. Her next event will be Sunday night in the long jump final, her most vulnerable event. She will then run the 200 next weekend, and if she makes the team in all three events, she also is virtually certain to run on the 400 and 1,600 relays.
Inger Miller, who finished second to Jones in the 100 in last year's World Championships and won the 200 after Jones was injured in the semifinals, again finished second at 11.05.
The third member of the 100 team will be Chryste Gaines.
Gail Devers, the two-time Olympic champion, failed to make the team, finishing fifth.
"That opportunity to make history is now gone," Devers said of her chance to become the first three-time Olympic 100 champion.
In the men's 100, Greene, a Kansas City, Kan. native, was out of the blocks uncharacteristically slow and didn't get the lead until 20 meters remained.
Unheralded Curtis Johnson was second at 10.07, beating Jon Drummond, who had the same time.
Some of the greatest sprinters in history were in attendance to watch today's heroes.
After the women sprinters competed in the semifinals, the sellout crowd of about 23,000 at Sacramento State's Hornet Stadium was introduced to Edith McGwire, the 1964 Olympic 200 gold medalist and 100 silver medalist, and Wyomia Tyus, the 1964 and 1968 Olympic 100 champion.
Before the men ran, two more greats were introduced - Bobby Morrow, the 100, 200 and 400 relay gold medalist in the 1956 Olympics, and Jim Hines, the first man to break 10 seconds in the 100, the 1968 100 gold medalist and a member of the 400 relay team that broke the world record.
The men's shot put competition turned into one of the best ever. Adam Nelson, the 1997 NCAA champion while at Dartmouth and the 1994 world junior champion, uncorked the world's longest throw this year and his career best, 72 feet, 7 inches, on his final attempt.
C.J. Hunter, Jones' husband and the 1999 world champion, finished second at 71-9, also a personal best and also on his final attempt, and Andy Bloom took third at 70-103/4, another career best, also on his final try.
Only eight others in history have thrown farther than Nelson, including three Americans - world record-holder Randy Barnes, Brian Oldfield and John Brenner.
"I'm so fired up, I don't believe what just happened," the elated Nelson said.
"I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I felt the rhythm (on his final attempt). Everything felt slow motion, so I knew it was going to be a good throw."
Hunter, who bumped chests with Bloom after the competition, said the solid American performances would send a message to the world's other top throwers.
"This scares the hell out of everybody in Europe," the 330-pound Hunter said.
Bloom didn't think he would compete in the trials as late as 10 days ago, because he had three injured vertebrae and three ailing ribs.
'I couldn't walk,' he said. 'I was a mess.'
The brilliant efforts by the top three meant that John Godina, Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion, failed to make the U.S. team. Godina finished fourth at 69-21/2.
Michael Johnson, seeking a second consecutive 200-400 double at the Olympics, strolled through his semifinal heat in the 400 and still ran 44.63. Johnson, who generally barges into the lead quickly, waited until about 80 meters before surging to the front.
With about 50 meters to go, he began looking to both sides, and nobody was close.
Dawn Ellerbe, the American record-holder, led a 1-2-3 finish by New York Athletic Club athletes onto the first women's hammer throw team.
Ellerbe, who holds the U.S. best of 231-2, had the four-longest throws in the competition, all over 220-0, with her best at 227-0.
The muscular Ellerbe holds the world indoor best in the 20-pound weight throw (77-61/4) and is a five-time indoor champion. This was her fifth national title.
"The Olympics are very important to me," Ellerbe said. 'It's one of the things that kept me going all season.
"I've been chasing and chasing and chasing after it. I finally caught my dream."
Joining Ellerbe on the Olympic team for the first women's hammer throw at the games were Amy Palmer (217-70 and Jesseca Cross (217-2).