American sprint future shines bright after double gold

Saturday, September 23rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ On a chilly Australian night, the future of American sprints shone brighter than Marion Jones' chrome shoes.

Track and field might be a dying sport in the United States, but in the shortest of all Olympic races, it is as alive as the playful sparkle in Maurice Greene's eyes.

After runaway blowouts in the 100-meter dash, Jones and Greene are the world's fastest woman and man. Nobody is a close second.

Jones is 24, Greene is 26.

``The future looks real good for the next couple of years,'' Greene said.

And how!

Jones won in 10.75 seconds. Her margin of victory _ 0.37 seconds _ was the second-largest in Olympic 100-meter history, men or women. Greene won by a comfortable .12 seconds and never was in any kind of trouble in his 9.87-second performance.

``Maurice just destroyed us,'' silver medalist Ato Boldon said.

Beyond their speed, the two don't have a whole lot in common. Jones is a portrait of poise and grace, Greene is brash and a bundle of energy.

But both are in their first Olympics, and both burst into tears after crossing the finish line.

Jones had stayed up all night visualizing the race. One thing for sure, she thought, she was not going to cry.

``I was like, `There's no way. I was going to cross that line and be a cool cat. I'm going to run, I'm going to celebrate,''' she said.

``Then when you cross that line and everything all of a sudden just hits you when you realize that you can be described as an Olympic champion, finally, it was very emotional.''

She sobbed and sobbed, then grabbed an American flag and the flag of Belize, the country where her mother was born.

Jones' husband, C.J. Hunter, wore a huge smile and allowed himself a rare moment of satisfaction. Hunter, who withdrew from the Olympic shot put because of knee surgery, usually is as serious as his wife is sweet.

``She's worked very hard,'' he said, ``but this is only the beginning.''

Greene won't run again until the 400-meter relay because he pulled up short with a sore hamstring and failed to qualify in the 200 at the U.S. trials. Jones has just a couple of days off before she resumes her quest to be the second Olympic track athlete to win five gold medals.

Still ahead are the 200, long jump and both relays.

``I wish her the best, because I wouldn't even try it,'' Greene said. ``I was very tired last year after (the world championships in) Seville after running all the rounds in the 100, running all the rounds in the 200 and the 400 relay.''

``She's a phenomenal athlete, and it's going to take a phenomenal athlete to accomplish that.''

With his shaved head and a diamond stud in each ear, Greene seems more impish than emotional. His race over, he threw his shoes into the crowd.

``I got what I came for,'' he said, ``and the crowd got a couple of souvenirs.''

The champions' personalities were on display on the medals stand.

Greene was presented the gold by International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch. Greene kissed the medal, even tasted it, then held it high to the crowd. As the national anthem played, Greene bit his lip.

``Actually, I was trying not to cry,'' he said. ``I was just overwhelmed with the excitement of everything. When I get nervous, my tongue comes out of my mouth and I start biting my lip. Ato was right behind me saying `Don't cry. Not yet.' I was very nervous up there.''

Jones studied the medal, seemed to be trying to read it, then ran her fingers over it. It was something she had coveted, and now she finally owned it. As the anthem neared its end, she managed a big, bright smile.

Her shoes were shiny silver, but the medal was gold.

``There was a rumor, perhaps it was a rumor, that one of my competitors said, `She's wearing silver shoes. That's what she must be running for,''' Jones said. ``But I guess I cleared that up.''