Jones relishes moment of triumph in Olympic trials

Friday, July 16th 2004, 6:10 am
By: News On 6

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ Finally, a moment of triumph for Marion Jones in the U.S. Olympic track and field trials.

Cheered on by a warm, supportive crowd, Jones won the long jump at 23 feet, 4 inches _ the second-longest mark in the world this year and her best effort since the 1998 World Cup final in Moscow.

``The first four steps were just as you draw them up,'' coach Dan Pfaff said. ``She kept her rhythm all the way down the board. It's like a golf shot. She timed it perfectly.''

Through the competition, Jones' trademark smile was nowhere to be find. She was expressionless, except for a nod toward the officials after her second and best jump of the night.

Embittered by the cloud of suspicion that she has endured all season, despite her vehement denials that she has ever taken performance-enhancing drugs, Jones again declined to talk to reporters.

But after her final jump, she flashed that smile and bowed to the crowd. Then she hugged runner-up Grace Upshaw and waved to the cheering fans.

On the victory stand, after the medal was placed around her neck, a bit of the old Marion Jones broke through.

``I think I had just a little bit of motivation,'' she said, laughing so hard her body bent forward. ``It feels really good. I had fun out there.''

Then she gave a hint of the emotional load she had been carrying after failing to make the team in the 100 meters, then finishing an unimpressive seventh in the long lump qualifying.

``So many people told me, `Marion have fun.''' she told the crowd. ``It was very hard to keep it together today,'' she said, her voice cracking as she began to sob.

The crowd at Hornet Stadium cheered. She gave high-fives and posed for a few pictures with fans as she made her way out a side entrance, avoiding the post-competition news conference that every other event winner has attended through the meet.

Jones, the long jump bronze medalist in the Sydney Olympics, sent word that she might talk with reporters after she competes in the 200 this weekend.

Later, Jones issued a statement through USA Track & Field.

``I'm very happy with my performance tonight,'' the statement said. ``I'm excited about making my second Olympic team, and look forward to going to Athens.''

Jones' triumph came on the day that Torri Edwards, runner-up in the 100 at the trials and reigning world champion in the event, acknowledged she had tested positive for a banned stimulant at a meet in Martinique in April.

Edwards said the substance was in glucose she took because she wasn't feeling well. She said that neither she nor her physiologist knew that the stimulant nikethamide had been added to the glucose. She has a hearing before a U.S. arbitration panel on Monday.

On the track, the parade of young talent produced another champion, 20-year-old Jeremy Wariner of Baylor in the 400 with a personal-best 44.37, the fastest time in the world this year. Wariner and fourth-place finisher Darold Williamson are coached by Baylor's Clyde Hart, who also coached Olympic great Michael Johnson.

``It was time for us to show what collegiate athletes could do on a big stage,'' Wariner said.

In an odd women's 3,000 steeplechase _ an event not contested in the Olympics _ Ann Gaffigan won in an American-record 9:39.35. Briana Shook finished far ahead of Gaffigan, but she was disqualified for running around the first water jump, instead of over it.

Dan Lincoln, competing on the track where he was a double-winner for Arkansas at the 2003 NCAA championships, won the 3,000 steeplechase in a personal-best 8:15.02.

Erin Gilreath won the women's hammer throw at 231 feet.

Adam Webb easily advanced through the first round of the 1,500 meters, winning his heat in 3:47.10. Young collegiate rivals Sanya Richards, DeeDee Trotter and Monique Henderson had the three fastest times in the semifinals of the women's 400.