JONES, Greene, Gebrselassie expected to star at World Championships

Saturday, July 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) _ Sprint sensation Marion Jones reflected on a trip she and men's sprint star Maurice Greene had made here to help promote the World Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

``I see it as part of the job,'' Jones said. ``I'm not naive, in terms that I know it's a business and they're trying to sell tickets, and bringing in Maurice and myself might help sell a couple extra tickets. If we can help promote the sport, that's great.

``If we can help bring more exposure to the World Championships, that's also great.''

Jones and Greene, two of the greatest sprinters in history, are expected to bring the most exposure to the Aug. 3-12 championships at refurbished Commonwealth Stadium, home of the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos.

Jones might get a chance to accomplish the goal she missed at the last World Championships in 1999 at Seville, Spain, winning an unprecedented four gold medals.

Jones opened those championships by winning the 100 meters in 10.70 seconds, a meet record and equaling the fifth-fastest time ever, but her hopes for a gold medal sweep ended quickly when she finished third in the long jump. She then pulled up lame in the semifinals of the 200, knocking her out of the 400 relay.

This time, she is skipping the long jump, her weakest event, and running the 100 and 200 and possibly the 400 and 1,600 relays. If she runs all four and wins them all, she would be the first athlete to win four golds at one championships.

Her status for the relays, however, is uncertain.

After she missed the relay team's training camp, coach J.J. Clark said he would talk to his staff when the team gets to Edmonton and determine Jones' participation in the relays.

Jones has been pointing for this meet all season.

``No doubt about it, the big thing this year is Edmonton,'' she said at the beginning of the season.

Jones has not lost a 100-meter final since 1997, a span of 41 races, and has not lost a 200 final since 1995, a total of 25 races. Included in the streak are victories in both events at last year's Olympics, where she won a women's record five medals _ three golds and two bronzes. She also is unbeaten in three 400 finals in the past three years, giving her a streak of 69 undefeated sprint races.

Greene has not been as invincible, but has been dominating. He won the 100 and 200 at the 1999 World Championships, the first sprint double in a global meet since Carl Lewis swept both events at the 1984 Olympics. He won the 100 at last year's Olympics and he set the world record of 9.79 in 1999.

Greene is eligible to try another double this year but might not defend his 200 title.

He is bothered by tendinitis in his left knee, and won't make his decision on the 200 until he arrives in Edmonton.

``As of now I'm not going to run (the 200) if I'm not 100 percent,'' he said recently. ``I've been training on the curve and my knee feels a lot worse than it does on the straight while I'm running.''

In the 100, Greene has lost only once this year, beaten by Jamaican Patrick Jarrett at the Prefontaine Classic at Eugene, Ore.

He does not even own the year's fastest time. That distinction belongs to Tim Montgomery, who ran 9.84 at Oslo, Norway, while wearing a borrowed pair of Jones' spikes because his got lost in transit.

``Until I run a 9.78, it's never a perfect race,'' Montgomery said, referring to Greene's world record.

Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj has run several perfect races _ he holds world records in five events, the outdoor 1,500 meters, mile and 2,000 meters, and the indoor 1,500 and mile _ although he has yet to win an Olympic gold medal.

In the 1996 Olympic 1,500 final, he fell just before the final bell, and at the Sydney Games, he was overtaken by Kenya's Noah Ngeny in the stretch and finished second. He has lost only one other race in the past five years.

At the Championships, El Guerrouj will bid for his third consecutive world title, and he won't have to face Ngeny.

Ngeny was dropped from the Kenyan team after failing to meet a deadline to return to his country for training.

For the same reason, the Kenyans dropped Tegla Loroupe, the world record-holder in the women's marathon who was scheduled to run the 10,000 meters at the Championships. Afterward, an angry Loroupe said she would never run for Kenya again.

Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie also has run a series of perfect races. The two-time Olympic gold medalist will seek his fifth straight 10,000-meter title at the championships.

Gebrselassie has set the world 5,000 record four times, the 10,000 record three times and the world best in the 2,000 twice. He also holds world indoor records for 2,000, 3,000 and 5,000 meters.

Among the other stars at the championships will be women's pole vaulter Stacy Dragila, men's decathlete Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic, women's 100 hurdler Gail Devers, men's long jumper Ivan Pedroso of Cuba, and men's 100-meter sprinter Donovan Bailey of Canada.

Dragila, the first indoor and outdoor world champion and first Olympic gold medalist in the pole vault, has broken the world record four times during the outdoor season, raising the mark to 15-9 1/4.

Sebrle became the first decathlete to amass 9,000 points in a meet, setting the world record with 9,026 this season.

The oft-injured Devers, who pulled up in last year's Olympics with a hamstring ailment during the semifinals, will be trying to become the first woman to win four golds in the same event at the championships. She won in 1993, '95 and '99.

German shot putter Astrid Kumbernuss also will be trying for her fourth title _ all consecutively.

Pedroso, the successor to Lewis as the world's premier long jumper, has won five consecutive world indoor titles, three straight world outdoor titles and the 2000 Olympic gold medal.

Bailey, the former world record-holder in the 100 and 1996 Olympic gold medalist who has been injured often in recent years, will be competing for the final time. He is retiring after the championships.

Also missing besides Ngeny and Loroupe are Michael Johnson, winner of nine World Championships gold medals; Ukraine's Sergei Bubka, the world indoor and outdoor record-holder in the pole vault and winner of a record six straight world titles; 1999 world shot put champion C.J. Hunter; Australia's Cathy Freeman, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist in the women's 400; defending men's pole vault champion, Russia's Maksim Tarasov; pole vault favorite Lawrence Johnson; and Russia's Irina Privalova, the Olympic 400 hurdles champion.

Michael Johnson is retiring at the end of the season and is not running any individual races this year. Bubka has retired after a long and illustrious career. Hunter retired after testing positive for drugs last year. Freeman is not competing this year. Tarasov dislocated his left ankle last week at a meet in Monaco. Lawrence Johnson has a stress fracture of the right leg, and Privalova had knee surgery earlier this year.

This is the eighth World Championships and the first time the meet will be held in North America. More than 3,000 athletes, coaches and officials from more than 200 countries are expected for the world's third-largest sporting event, behind the Summer Olympics and soccer World Cup.

There will be 46 finals _ 24 for men, 22 for women _ in 10 days of competition.