Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sprinter Jones Will Take a Leap of Faith in Sydney

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sprinter Jones Will Take a Leap of Faith in Sydney

Article excerpt

Marion Jones, who runs faster than any woman in the world, has a problem: She has positioned herself for big-time failure.

What she has done is set her sights and her legs on winning an astounding five gold medals in the Sydney Olympics - her first Olympics - starting in four months.

If she does, she will be bedecked in the most gold ever won in a single Olympics by an American woman, surpassing the four swimmer Amy Van Dyken won in 1996 in Atlanta. Additionally, Ms. Jones would end up second in history to East German swimmer Kristin Otto, who won six in 1988.

In view of the "focus on five," about which she endlessly discourses, she now admits it might have been better not to blab so much so soon. Loose lips can sink ships.

To begin with, running track is such a fragile sport. A misbehaved leg muscle that decides to pull instead of push at an inopportune moment can ruin years of preparation. But at this juncture, Jones is a firm choice to win both the 100 and 200 meters and seemingly a lock to be a participant on two relay teams - the 4x100 and 4x400 - that look to be golden opportunities.

So four golds is a legitimate prospect, not the stuff of fantasy. But that's one short in Jones's gold rush.

Her fifth event is the long jump, and it has been bedeviling her something awful. Recently in Japan, she tried to jump but it was an adventure in the wilderness. After her dismal results, she says she thought to herself, "Well, back to the drawing board." Truth is, it's mighty late on the competitive calendar to be taking remedial trips to the drawing board.

"I'm still optimistic," she insisted cheerfully here earlier this week at a gathering of Olympic officials, top athletes, media, and sponsors. But she may also be whistling past the cemetery.

Her troubles, she says, involve getting down the runway in some sort of reliable rhythm. At the moment, the beat is all wrong. Among her difficulties: She finds herself thinking about a chaotic mixture of things prior to her jump - speed, head up, chest out, good extension, height, feet up. Pondering all these things is resulting in not much. "It's frustrating," she concedes. …

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