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American Olympic Champ Competes But Can Not Duplicate Past Success - 2004-08-07

American track and field star Marion Jones will not duplicate her 2000 Olympic five-medal performance when she competes at this month's Athens Games. Jones only qualified to compete in the women's long jump in Greece and she could be added to the relay teams.

A lot has happened to Marion Jones since becoming the first female track and field athlete to win five medals at one Olympics.

She ended her marriage with American shot putter C.J. Hunter and is now in a relationship with American sprinter Tim Montgomery. Last year they had a baby boy together. Jones has also changed coaches since the 2000 Sydney games. Even though she has never tested positive for a banned substance, Jones has also been at the center of recent doping allegations against U.S. athletes.

Jones, who holds dual nationality with the country Belize, thinks there is a doping problem in sports and supports actions by the United States Anti-Doping Agency to punish athletes who are cheating.

Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery left coach Trevor Graham earlier this year and worked briefly with Charles Francis, the man who had coached banned Canadian runner Ben Johnson. They left Francis and in July 2003 began training with 1996 Olympic champion Donovan Bailey's former coach Dan Pfaff.

Jones said she left Graham because of differences between them and their lack of communication. The 28-year-old said the biggest change since Dan Pfaff started coaching her has been the training regimen, especially in the long jump. "It's amazing what I've learned in the past ten months and I've been jumping since I was in high school in 1992. I've learned more in the past ten months than I have all that time competing," she says.

The California-born runner was inspired to start track and field after watching the late Florence Griffith-Joyner compete at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California. In high school, 1.80 meter tall Jones did not lose a race after her freshman year and she holds the 200-meter U.S. national high school record.

When she was only 17 years old, Jones won the 100 and 200-meter races at the 1992 U.S. Junior Track and Field Championships. She later finished fifth in the 100 and seventh in the 200 at the World Junior Championships. Jones finished fourth in the 200 and fifth in the 100 meters at the 1992 Olympic Trials but turned down a chance to run on the U.S. four-by-100-meter relay team at the Barcelona Olympics.

At the University of North Carolina, Jones participated in both basketball and track and field. She was a two-time Atlantic Coast Conference long jump champion and finished second in the 200 meters at the 1994 conference championships. During her collegiate career, Jones had five top eight finishes at the national championships. She also helped North Carolina to the national basketball collegiate championship her freshman year.

Jones hoped to make the 1996 U.S. Olympic basketball team, but she broke a bone in her left foot during practice at the 1995 World University Games. When she re-injured her foot in December of that year, her season and her basketball career ended.

After graduating from college with a degree in journalism and communications, Jones won her first two national outdoor titles by beating Olympic champions Jackie Joyner-Kersee in the long jump and Gail Devers in the 100 meters. Marion Jones also won her first world title in the 100 at the 1997 World Athletics Championships.

In 1998, Jones was undefeated until German Heike Drechsler beat her in the long jump at the World Cup. Jones has also won three Goodwill Games gold medals, two in the 100 meters and another in the 200. She was named the 1998 track and field athlete of the year.

After aiming for five gold medals in Sydney, Jones won the 100 and 200 and was a member of the gold medal-winning four-by-400-meter relay team. But she finished with the bronze medals in the long jump and four-by-100 relay.

The five-time world champion was undefeated in 2002 and did not compete in 2003 because of her son's birth. Marion Jones said having a baby the year before the Olympics was a big risk, so keeping in shape was important to her during the pregnancy. "I was on the treadmill working out up until two days before my son was born and felt that I wanted to get back into it as soon as possible," she says.

Jones resumed full training only a couple months after her son was born. The 13 time national champion came back in 2004 to win the long jump at the U.S. Olympic trials, but failed to qualify for the team in the 100, finishing fifth, and she pulled out of the 200 because of fatigue.

Unlike before the Sydney games, Marion Jones is not putting her Olympic expectations and hopes for a relay appearance out in the public. She realizes this time around that she is not guaranteed a relay berth. "I don't have total control in terms of the relays. If Marion Jones wants to run a relay, she just can't put herself on a relay, I need to work with the U.S. Olympic coaches, and this time around I decided I am going to be more open to doing that," she says.

Marion Jones has said her goal is to win a gold medal in Athens. After the Olympics, she plans to continue training and competing through the 2008 Beijing Games. She is also looking forward to being at home with her son more often after she retires from the sport.