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WORLD'S FASTEST HUMANS JONES, GREENE RUN FOR GOLD IN 100-METER DASH.

Byline: Paul Oberjuerge Staff Writer

SYDNEY, Australia - They are America's fastest humans.

The world's, too!

Marion Jones and Maurice Greene ran rings around their Olympic rivals, handling the burden of expectations and the challenges of the planet's toughest competition to win gold medals in the men's and women's 100-meter dashes at the Sydney Olympics on Saturday.

Greene and Jones provided a red-white-and-blue blur of raw speed as each won decisively in back-to-back races before a capacity crowd of 110,000 at Olympic Stadium.

Jones, a former Thousand Oaks resident, clocked 10.75 seconds and won by .37 seconds - the largest victory margin in the 72-year history of the women's Olympic 100.

Greene, who lives in Granada Hills and trains at UCLA, covered 100 meters in 9.87 seconds, winning by .12 - the fattest edge since Carl Lewis won by .20 in 1984.

``It's very special that two Americans won gold medals a couple minutes apart,'' Jones said.

``I hope everyone is pleased with the outcome,'' Greene said with a big smile. ``I am.''

Victories by Greene and Jones represent the sixth time one nation has produced both sprint champs in the same Olympics. All six times the winning duos were Americans.

Greene and Jones entered their races as favorites; each finished their races fighting back tears.

``I vowed when I crossed the line I would keep my cool,'' Jones said, ``but when I found that (finish) line, all that was out the window. I pretty much lost it.

``It was overwhelming. An incredible experience. Everything I dreamed of and more.''

``I was very emotional,'' Greene said. ``It was a very big relief. Tonight, after the race, I was thanking God it was over with.''

Said Jones: ``You have no idea how much pressure was out there.''

Each took a victory lap of the stadium. Jones carried the American flag, and also a small flag of Belize, the Central American country where her mother was born.

The Olympic victory put an exclamation mark on the 100-meter-dash careers of both.

Jones would have been favored to win gold at Atlanta in 1996, but an injury forced her to miss the games.

Greene was mere months away from becoming the world's top sprinter when he was eliminated in preliminary heats at the 1996 U.S. trials; he watched from the stands in Atlanta as Donovan Bailey set a world record and won gold.

Ekaterini Thanou of Greece was a distant second to Jones, clocking 11.12; Tanya Lawrence of Jamaica was third in 11.18.

Greene was followed to the finish line by training partner Ato Boldon, a native of Trinidad who went to UCLA, who ran a 9.99, and Obadele Thompson of Barbados, clocked in 10.04. Jon Drummond, a Hudson-Smith International track club teammate of Greene and Boldon, was fifth.

For Jones, the victory was Step 1 in a schedule she hopes will yield an unprecedented (for a female track athlete) five gold medals - in the 100, 200, the two relays and the long jump.

``I wish her the best, because I wouldn't try it,'' Greene said of Jones' ambitious plans. ``I was very tired last year at (the world championships in) Seville after running all of the rounds of the 100 and the 200 and the relay.

``I wish her the best. She's a phenomenal athlete. It's going to take a phenomenal athlete to do something like that.''

Jones' prospects in the relays look bleaker after shaky performances by her teammates. Torri Edwards went out in the second round of the 100 preliminaries, and Chryste Gaines was eliminated in the semifinals.

No American made it as far as the semifinals of the women's 400.

``I'm confident that when it comes time to put the four fastest legs out there for the 4-by-100 and the 4-by-400, we'll be right there,'' Jones said. ``We'll get it together when it's time.''

She would not describe getting the first gold ``a relief.''

``I don't see it that way. To me, I'm out there having a ball. It's not a stressful time in my life, it's a very happy time. But it's nice to have already, and finally, won the first of what hopefully is four more'' gold medals.

Both Greene and Jones had mediocre starts in the 100 final, quickly made up ground and powered away from their competitors. Greene won by more than a meter. Jones' edge was closer to four meters.

CAPTION(S):

4 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- 2 -- color) A jubilant Marion Jones, celebrates as she wins the gold medal Saturday in the women's 100-meter race. At right is Ekaterini Thanou of Greece. At left is Chandra Sturrup of the Bahamas. At right, Maurice Greene flaunts the American flag as he revels in his victory in the men's 100-meter competition in Sydney, Australia.

Doug Mills/Associated Press

(3) Maurice Greene

(4) Marion Jones

Box: MAKING HISTORY IN A MATTER OF SECONDS
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 24, 2000
Words:821
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