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ATHLETICS Jones goes for top dollar as she chases golden jackpot.

Marion Jones stands to collect at least pounds 340,000 in one of the biggest pay-days in athletics history at the Grand Prix Final in Moscow tonight.

The American will earn in a couple of hours at the Olympic Stadium riches which the average Russian, forced to live on around pounds 130 a month even before their country's financial crisis, could only dream about.

Jones is one of four still in the running to share in the $1million bonus jackpot on offer to those who remain unbeaten through the six Golden League meetings and tonight's final.

The 22-year-old, undefeated in any competition so far this summer, looks assured of a comfortable victory in the 100m which would clinch the $200,000 prize on offer to the women's overall Grand Prix champion.

Jones exploded back on the athletics scene after an injury-dogged career in college basketball and will add another $50,000 for taking the sprint event and repeat that amount if she is victorious in the long jump.

The riches would be even greater if any of the other jackpot contenders - Hicham El Guerrouj (1500m), Haile Gebrselassie (3,000m) and Bryan Bronson (400m hurdles) - slump to defeat.

Unlike the other three, Jones delayed her arrival in the Russian capital until yesterday but the supposed security fears which led around 50 athletes to sign a petition calling for the final to be moved have not materialised. The athletes' hotels are pro tected by armed guards, but the concern expressed by America's World and Olympic champion Michael Johnson among others have cut no ice with locals.

"They prance around Europe all summer as Rambo like fighters, but at the first hint of danger they cannot face it," said Vitaly Smirnov, the President of Russia's Olympic Committee.

The Muscovites, who have reacted to the fall of the rouble by buying what dollars, gold and diamonds they can afford, seem content to celebrate a holiday weekend rather than riot or embark on some crime wave.

World record holder El Guerrouj also revealed that he signed the petition which led Primo Nebiolo, President of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, to ridicule those who stayed away for being afraid.

"I thought there was a lot of crime here," said El Guerrouj. "But since I've been in Moscow everybody has been so nice." The Moroccan can also contemplate similar riches to Jones if he can win the 1500m and take the overall men's award. He has already ba nked a $50,000 bonus for setting a world record at the Golden League meeting in Rome.

Gebrselassie should also hang-on to his bonus in the 3000m despite an unconvincing victory in Berlin last Tuesday, but most at threat appears to be one-lap hurdler Bronson.

The American stayed in contention with victory by just 0.01 o-second in Berlin over Stephane Diagana, France's world champion who could wreck his jackpot dreams tonight.

"I wasn't seeing dollar signs coming off the last hurdle," said Bronson. "If I had thought about the money I would have tightened up and probably lost.''

Paula Radcliffe, one of England's Commonwealth Games gold medal hopefuls, has withdrawn from the team due to illness.

Radcliffe, 24, from Loughborough, was due to compete in the 5,000m in Kuala Lumpur, but contracted a virus which has left her feeling very tired and unable to train or compete at the highest level.

Solomon Wariso yesterday became the latest athlete to withdraw from Britain's team for next week's World Cup in Johannesburg. Wariso has pulled out of the 4x400m relay squad with a virus.
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Author:GORDON, From IAN
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 5, 1998
Words:595
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