US sprinter Marion Jones's goal of five golds became tougher yesterday. She had to deal with a huge drug distraction involving her husband, shot putter C.J. Hunter. Track officials announced that Hunter, a world-champion shot putter who is not competing in the Sydney Olympics, tested positive for a banned steroid two months ago.
Whether this news will cool off Jones was unclear on a day when cool weather had some athletes grumbling that conditions were more suited to the Winter Games. Hunter is in Sydney to coach Jones, who already has won a gold in the 100-meter dash.
One of the most difficult tasks in sport is to come in as a favorite - like a Michael Johnson, Maurice Greene, or Marion Jones - and manage to deliver.
No one did it better than American pole vaulter Stacy Dragila, who has tied or bettered the world record eight times over the past three years. But last night, she cleared 14 ft., 9 in. on her third and final try at that height, and then went on to nail a 15 ft., 1 in. leap on her first try to win. "I was happy to do what it took to win," said Dragila afterward. This is the first time women's pole vaulting has been a full Olympic sport.
The Chinese drove their gold medal haul up to 21 yesterday with two wins in gymnastics and a tough victory in table tennis, which gave them a sweep of all the golds in the event. After 11 days of competition, China has 21 golds compared with 23 by the United States. Russia was third with 14. The golds in gymnastics came from a narrow win in the men's parallel bars and a brilliant performance on the beam to end Russia's domination of the women's apparatus finals. Table-tennis player Kong Linghui beat former Olympic gold medalist Jan-Ove Waldner of Sweden in the men's singles to complete the Chinese domination of the competition.
Blaine Wilson finished sixth in the vault finals and Elise Ray was eighth in the balance beam yesterday, ending any hope the Americans had of winning a gymnastics medal. It's the first time since 1972 that the US has been shut out of a gymnastics medal. Russia's Alexei Nemov, who won the men's all-around, won the gold on the high bar. He also won a bronze on the floor.
The US softball team clinched at least a bronze medal when Stacey Nuveman homered in the third extra inning to beat China 4-0. Heavily favored before a three-game losing streak brought them to the brink of elimination, the Americans still have a chance for the gold.
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