JONES is back on track, Gebrselassie smiles after stunning loss

Thursday, August 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) _ Marion Jones had a hard time dealing with defeat. Haile Gebrselassie accepted his loss with a smile.

The Ethiopian great, a near-mythic figure in the African-dominated world of long-distance running, lost a 10,000-meter race for the first time since 1993 Wednesday night, a span of 12 victories.

With a fierce final 120 meters, Kenyan Charles Kamathi pulled away to end the Ethiopian's reign of four world championships.

Ethiopian Assefa Mezgebu was second. Gebrselassie, who had not run a race since his dramatic victory at the 2000 Olympics, finished third.

``The last 100 meters I don't know what was happening,'' Gebrselassie said. ``I couldn't do anything. I didn't expect the Kenyan to come past so fast. I thought it was only me.''

He said his foot surgery last November was no factor.

``To be honest with you, I'm in very good shape,'' Gebrselassie said. ``I'm not disappointed. Why should I be disappointed? I tried, but I couldn't do it.''

Kamathi, just 22 years old and never a contender in a major championship, couldn't decide which was more important, beating Gebrselassie or winning the gold.

``I feel the same way about both,'' he said.

Jones, meanwhile, was back on the track for a smooth victory in the first round of the 200-meter preliminaries, just two days after her stunning loss to Ukrainian Hanna Pintusevich-Block in the 100-meter finals.

She said she suffered through a near-sleepless night and fretted throughout the day Tuesday, thinking about what she could have done differently. By Tuesday night, she finally decided there was no use dwelling on it and woke up Wednesday eager to run.

``It's great to be back out here on the track,'' Jones said, ``and building back a bit of confidence. I wasn't really broken after the 100, but you know it's been awhile since I've lost a race, and I kind of forgot how to deal with it.''

Jones, who pulled up with a strained back muscle in the semifinals of the 200 at the 1999 worlds, won her heat in 22.70 seconds to advance to Thursday night's semifinals.

Defending champion Inger Miller of the United States, bothered by injuries all year, struggled to advance with a fourth-place finish in her heat in 22.98 seconds. The other two Americans in the event _ Kelli White (22.65) and Latasha Jenkins (22.82) _ won their heats.

For the second day in a row, no American won a medal. But they weren't as desperate as host Canada, which has yet to win a medal at all.

Both remaining U.S. sprinters in the men's 200 advanced to Thursday's finals. Kevin Little ran a 20.13 to finish second to Britain's Christian Malcolm in his heat. Crawford was third in his heat in 20.19. That heat was one by Olympic gold medalist Konstadinos Kederis of Greece.

For the first time in Olympic and world championships history, the United States will not have a representative in the final of the men's 400-meter hurdles. Olympic champion Angelo Taylor clipped his back foot on the final hurdle and finished fourth in his semifinal heat.

His time of 49.23 seconds wasn't nearly fast enough to make it to the final and was far off his world-leading time of 47.95 this year.

``I'll hold my head up and get ready for the four-by-four relay,'' he said.

The other two Americans, Calvin Davis and James Carter, also missed qualifying for the final. The fastest qualifier was New York native Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic in 48.07.

It was a great day for Kenyans. Besides Kamathi's victory, Kenyans finished 1-3 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, with Olympic champion Rueben Kosgei getting the victory.

Germans won two golds, Lars Reidel in the discus at 228 feet, 9 inches, and Martin Buss in the high jump at 7-8 3/4. Two-time world champion Javier Sotomayor of Cuba was fourth in the high jump and said it was his last world championships.

In the only women's final, Nezha Bidouane of Morocco won the 400 in 53.34 seconds.