Second jump propels Jones into finals

Updated: August 25, 2004, 7:08 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Without any of the fanfare that accompanied her historic quest for five gold medals in at the 2000 Games, Marion Jones quietly advanced to the final of the long jump in her first appearance of these Olympics.

Jones qualified for the final with the seventh-best jump of Wednesday's qualifying round: 21 feet, 11½ inches.

Marion Jones
Marion Jones fouled by several inches on her first long jump attempt.
After qualifying, she quickly dressed and called it a night. She said her experience in Athens has to do with more than just winning another medal.

"It's a little bit about a gold, but I think to me it's a lot more about coming out here, doing my best in the midst of a hell of a year,'' said Jones, who is the subject of a steroid investigation, has been accused by her ex-husband of using banned drugs in Sydney and gave birth to a son 14 months ago. "I mean, you can take that how you want it -- being able to do your best in the midst of mass chaos.''

Four years ago, Jones' quest for five golds ended in the long jump. This time, she made her Athens debut in the event. She drew only a smattering of applause here, with little of the celebrity worship that engulfed her in Sydney.

On her first attempt, Jones licked her lips, then paused for the start of a men's race. She took two quick deep breaths, sped down the runway -- and fouled by several inches. She immediately went over to the stands to talk with coach Dan Pfaff.

Jones opened her mouth wide and rolled her tongue around her mouth before her second jump, then took four quick breaths. The second attempt easily surpassed the automatic qualifying distance of 21-10 to advance her to Friday's final.

At the 2000 Sydney Games, Jones already had won gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters when she got a bronze in the long jump. She went on to win two more medals in relays -- one gold, one bronze.

At the U.S. trials this summer, she failed to qualify in the 100 and dropped out of the 200, citing fatigue.

It was announced Wednesday night that Jones will be part of the U.S. Olympic 400-meter relay team. Women's coach Sue Humphrey made the decision official.

Jones' participation had been a subject of speculation because she is being investigated by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. However, she has not been charged with any doping offense and qualified Wednesday night for the long jump finals.

The lineup, in order, will be Angela Williams, Jones, 100-meter silver medalist Lauryn Williams and LaTasha Colander. That team ran 41.37 seconds, three-tenths of a second off the world record, in Munich on Aug. 8.

Humphrey will go with the same quartet in Thursday night's semifinals and Friday's finals, barring any injuries or other unforeseen problems, said USA Track & Field spokeswoman Jill Geer.

Two weeks ago, Humphrey said that the four had separated themselves from the others in the relay camp, and that no one in the USATF had given her any reason to not run Jones in the Olympics.

Asked about it again last week at a news conference in Athens, Humphrey repeated the comment and said, "all I hear is rumor and innuendo, and I don't deal in rumor and innuendo.''

Should Jones be found guilty of doping, the United States could lose any medal it wins in the relay. However, Jones has vehemently denied ever taking banned performance-enhancing substances.

Humphrey had said Jones was looking better each day and was far better than at the U.S. trials, where she was fifth in the 100, and failed to qualify in the even where she won the gold medal in Sydney.

The 400-meter relay semifinals are Thursday night, with the finals Friday night. Jones will compete in the long jump final on Friday as well.

These are not the only differences from the last Olympics.

Jones was the darling of Sydney, her every move chronicled as she aimed for five golds. Even her defense of husband C.J. Hunter on drug charges won her praise as a supportive spouse.

Now she's under investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and has been accused by the now-divorced Hunter of using banned drugs before, during and after the Sydney Games.

"I'm looking forward to jumping on Friday and, you know what, getting on the next plane Saturday and heading home to my little boy, who I've been away from for over three weeks,'' Jones said.

"So things are a lot different than four years ago.''

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press