Marion Jones comes up empty

By Mark Maloney

Knight Ridder Newspapers

ATHENS -- Ya' gotta take the bad with the good.

At least, that's how things played out Friday for Team USA at the Athens Olympic Games.

Marion Jones, hoping to win a pair of medals, instead came away fifth in the women's long jump and was unable to complete a handoff to No. 3 runner Lauryn Williams on the 4-by-100-meter relay.


Tim Mack and Toby Stevenson salvaged the night at the track, placing 1-2 in the men's pole vault.

Next door to the Olympic Stadium, U.S. basketball teams came away with split decisions in games that determined today's gold-medal finalists.

The American women put away Russia 66-62, and will face Australia for gold.

But the American men were upset 89-81 by Argentina and dropped into the bronze-medal game against Lithuania. The Argentines will meet Italy for gold.

A similar storyline played out for Team USA in the boxing semifinals.

Andre Dirrell lost. Andre Ward won.

Jones, long-jump bronze-medalist at the 2000 Olympics, fouled her first attempt, then reached 22 feet, 5 3/4 inches on her second try. That turned out to be her best.

Russians Tatyana Lebedeva, Irina Simagina and Tatyana Kotova scored an unprecendented sweep of the long-jump medals. Lebedeva, who won bronze in the triple jump four days earlier, struck gold this time at 23-2 1/2. After the Russians came Australia's Bronwyn Thompson, then Jones.


Still, Jones and her teammates had thoughts of a world-record relay victory.

Angela Williams got out well, and Jones ran strong on the second leg. But Williams felt nothing but air when she reached to take the second pass. By the time she slowed and made contact, Williams was out of the race and out of the exchange zone.

Jamaica went on to win in 41.73 seconds. Russia took silver and France scored bronze.

"I'm extremely disappointed," Jones said. "Words can't put it into perspective. When I woke up this morning, this wasn't how I figured the day to end. I can go home now and regroup and get ready for next year."

Mack and Stevenson salvaged some American pride in the pole vault, matching the 1-2 finish of Nick Hysong and Lawrence Johnson four years ago.

Mack, down to his final attempt, topped an Olympic- and personal-record 19-6 1/4 to yank the gold away from his teammate. Stevenson cleared 19-4 1/4. World champion Guiseppe Gibilisco of Italy was third at 19-2 1/2. With the gold won, Mack missed three attempts at six meters 19-8 1/4.

"Everybody brought their 'A' game tonight," Stevenson said. "Yes, I'm disappointed that I lost, but am I disappointed in a silver medal? Hell, no.

"The crowd was terrific. They were so into the vaults that I didn't know the rest of the meet was over. Tim is a great jumper. We had been saying for two weeks, 'Let's get a gold and silver,' half joking and half serious."

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