Greene, Jones run to daylight in 100s for golden moment

With long waits over, emotions tumble out for dashing Americans

Track and field

September 24, 2000|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

SYDNEY, Australia - There were empty seats in the skyboxes and moths buzzing the infield. The crowd was more interested in local hero Cathy Freeman's appearance in the second round of the 400 meters. The competition complained of the chill in the air, and stood in awe of Maurice Greene and Marion Jones, the real Dream Team.

A pair of newcomers to the Games put on as dominant a combined display of sprinting as has ever been seen in the finals of the men's and women's 100-meter dash at the Olympics. Greene hammered out a margin of victory that has been bettered by only Bob Hayes and Carl Lewis since 1924. Jones began her Drive for Five with the second-easiest 100 win in Olympic history.

Greene, a 26-year-old from Kansas City, Kan., sat in the stands in Atlanta four years ago as a spectator and cried because he wasn't on the track. He wept tears of joy last night, then tossed his red, white and blue shoes, with the soles painted gold, into the stands.

Jones, 24, fulfilled a dream she had as a little girl. She wore metallic silver footwear, but no one in the crowd of 104,228 at Olympic Stadium doubted that she would win gold.

Jones came home in 10.75 seconds, .37 ahead of Ekaterini Thanou of Greece, and kept right on skipping into the arms of her mother and brother. Greene blew by training partner Ato Boldon of Trinidad and was caught in 9.87. He didn't scare his world record of 9.79, but his .12-second bulge over Boldon was another symbol of the white flag the rest of the world has run up against the two young Americans.

"Overwhelming," Jones said of her experience.

Jones trains in Raleigh, N.C., was born in Los Angeles, and waved the stars and stripes and a less familiar banner from Belize, the homeland of her mother, on her victory lap. She lay awake Friday night in her hotel room, then revisited her vision of stamping herself as the most famous female athlete in the world. She had drawn plenty of endorsements; now it was time to start piling up medals.

"C. J. said to close my eyes," Jones said, referring to her husband, American shot putter C. J. Hunter. "I said. `My eyes are closed. I just can't get to sleep.' This is the stage we all dream about. I've been dreaming about this for 19 years, and I did have some of those dreams last night."

If there were a catch to the evening for Jones, it was the poor showing of her American teammates in the 100 and 400, which cast a pall on the relay part of her five gold-medal plan. With her next events, the 200 and long jump, not scheduled until Wednesday, she didn't like questions about what are suddenly shaky 400 and 1,600 relay teams.

"Can I just enjoy this for a couple of more minutes?" Jones said.

Please do. If you want to get technical, Jones delivered the largest margin of victory ever in an Olympic 100. Analysis of film from 1952 credited Australia's Marjorie Jackson with a .38 margin of victory, but her official time on the stopwatches in Helsinki was 11.5, .3 ahead of the silver medalist.

Greene is also a sprinter for the ages, a 5-foot-9, 174-pound bundle of muscle who has run under 10 seconds 31 times and gone under 9.90 more often than anyone else.

After an official in a green blazer shooed Jones and her victory lap off the track for the men's final, Greene handled Boldon and Jon Drummond, his training partner with the HSI agency/club in Los Angeles. Drummond tightened to fifth.

The Caribbean won half of the 100 medals - Boldon and Obadele Thompson of Barbados finished second and third on the men's side and Jamaica's Tanya Lawrence took bronze in the women's race - compared with the two golds won by the Americans.

Thompson became Barbados' first Olympic medalist.

A flamboyant figure who has "MO GOLD" on his California license plates, Greene has driven a Ferrari here. Wearing a diamond stud in each ear, Greene paced like a caged tiger before the 100 introductions.

After his picturesque knee lift and drive carried him across the finish line, he said, "Thank you, God." Greene did his best not to cry on the awards podium after IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch gave him his medal.

Greene turned humble and gracious in the interview room. A two-time world champion, he had predicted a gold medal and maybe even an assault on his world record, but underneath the bravado, he was one worried favorite.

"I guess you could say that I put a lot of pressure on myself," Greene said. "It wasn't like I was going to come here and everyone was going to give me a gold medal."

Greene said he was inspired by two men: Drummond, a 32-year-old native of Philadelphia who was in his first Olympic final and appeared devastated by his fifth-place finish, and his coach, John Smith.

One of the architects of the group that has recruited Baltimore's Bernard Williams and wants him included on the U.S. men's 400 relay team, Smith was the best quarter-miler in the world in 1972, but pulled up lame in the Olympic 400 final in Munich.

"My coach should have won a gold medal when he competed at the Olympic Games," Greene said. "I think missing out left a big hole in his heart. I know I can never fill that hole and the pain will always be there, but by winning the gold I knew it would give him something."

Boldon, a member of HSI, said that the plan for the club was to go "1-2-3-4," but American Curtis Johnson didn't even make the final, which does not bode well for the team's desire to dominate the 400 relay. American coach John Chaplin said he will announce his tentative lineup tomorrow, so Williams is in for another anxious night.

Boldon drew lane seven after a semifinal heat in which he and Greene nearly brushed in adjoining lanes.

Boldon said that chilly temperatures were a factor in the relatively slow times in the 100 finals, with one glaring exception up top.

"The kind of race Maurice ran tonight," Boldon said, "we got destroyed."

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