The best story heading into the Sydney Olympics - Will track and field star Marion Jones be able to meet her astounding goal of winning five gold medals? - was nearly obliterated this week in the qualifying competition in Sacramento, Calif.
Jones came within a single attempt of failing to even get off a legal jump in the long jump competition. Had she not gathered herself and delivered a satisfactory leap (22 feet plus) on her third try in the preliminaries, she would have failed to make the three-woman team. And her new goal would have become, out of necessity, winning four golds.
The supremely confident Jones said of her early failures, "I thought I was jumping pretty well." Ultimately, she recorded a jump in the finals of 23 feet-1/2 inch, good enough for first.
Whether Jones, whose forte is running, will be gold good in Sydney in the long jump is a big question. But, for now, the dream lives.
United States Olympic Committee boss Norm Blake says it is "regrettable" that the organization's man in charge of drug compliance by US athletes has "chosen this time" on the eve of the Games to attack the USOC.
The drug official, Wade Exum, quit last month saying his bosses are racist and look away from suspected doping violations. Exum held the job for nine years and said he left "with much grief and disgust." USOC chief Blake says he'll have more to say later.
One of the new Olympic sports is women's weightlifting. Tomorrow, in New Orleans, a 106-pound woman, Tara Nott, will try to make the team in qualifying competition.
Nott, a former gymnast and soccer player, gravitated to lifting when she was looking for something to do to keep in shape: "I'm just a person who likes to try different things." The image of the sport - something for huge men - has to be changed, she says.
The Early Greeks Never Envisioned This Department: A Garland, Texas, company is handling security for the Sydney Olympics and beyond. Garrett Metal Detectors says it will provide the largest metal-detector installation in Winter Games history at Salt Lake City in 2002. "Nothing less will do," says a company official. Included will be myriad walk-through, hand-held, and ground-search detectors.
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