U.S. fails to finish after bad handoff

Updated: August 28, 2004, 2:03 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- A failed baton handoff doomed the U.S. 400-meter relay team, ending Marion Jones' last chance for a medal at the Athens Games.

An hour after she finished fifth in the long jump, Jones, running second, was unable to make the handoff to 100-meter silver medalist Lauryn Williams. Williams left too early and Jones could not reach her with the baton until it was too late.

Jamaica won in a time of 41.73 seconds. Russia won the silver medal at 42.27 seconds. France got the bronze at 42.54 seconds.

Tayna Lawrence ran the opening leg for Jamaica, followed by Sherone Simpson, Aleen Bailey and Veronica Campbell.

"If we all stay healthy, no one can beat us in the coming years,'' Lawrence said. "Our only enemies are our injuries.''

Jones, running second, was close to the lead as she approached Williams. But Jones reached once, shouted "Wait up! Wait up!'' as she reached a second time, then finally was able to give the baton to Williams on the third attempt -- nearly running into her younger teammate.

By then Williams was already out of the 20-meter handoff zone. She stopped running, and Jones put her arm around Williams as the two walked to the end of the track.

Jones clutched Williams' hand tightly as the two left the track after the race, and tears trickled down Jones' face when she was asked later about her Olympic experience.

"It was a rough one,'' she said, breaking into more tears. "I just couldn't get the baton to Lauryn. I said, 'Wait, wait, hold up, hold, stop, wait,'

"At the end of the 100 I was a little out of breath. I just couldn't get it to her. It didn't happen today.''

The United States had won gold in every Olympic women's 400-meter race since 1984 -- except for the 2000 Sydney Games, when handoff problems involving Jones and others resulted in a third-place finish.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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