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Sunday 09, May-2004

KINGSTON – _ got into the starting blocks and the fans stood.
Cameras flashed, but a hush came over the stadium. After all, it was the crowd’s first chance to see the five-time Olympic medallist running in Jamaica.

She certainly didn’t disappoint. Jones won the 100 metres Friday night at the Jamaica International Invitational, easily winning in 11.04 seconds in front a crowd of 18 000. Aleen Bailey of Jamaica was a distant second in 11.19.

Jones’ boyfriend, fellow sprinter Tim Montgomery, fared worse in his 100. American Darvis Patton won in a photo finish over countryman John Capel after lunging his head forward at the finish line. Patton took the race in 10.12, 0.01 ahead of Capel.

Montgomery was fourth in 10.25 and didn’t talk to reporters.

Though it wasn’t the fastest time for Jones, this was her first competition outdoors in the 100 since 2002.

“I expected it,” Jones said. “It’s exactly where I want to be and it can only get better from here.”

Top international stars flocked to this inaugural meet, sure to get great competition just three months before the August 13-29 Olympic Games.

But Jones had more to go. She was set to compete in the long jump outdoors for the first time since winning bronze at the Sydney Olympics 2000, about an hour after her sprint race.

The crowd cheered wildly when Jones won, giving her more of an ovation than the Jamaican sprinters. Though the stadium was half full, the crowd made enough noise to get Jones’ attention.

“I felt really good,” Jones said while she waved to the crowd. “Thanks you guys for turning out.

“I was feeling the vibe because I love the weather. It’s like paradise. It doesn’t get much better than this.”

Though steroid allegations have dogged her, Jones still is track and field’s darling. As she walked off the track after her race, the crowd kept clapping and waving.

Jones and Montgomery were among dozens of athletes – including baseball sluggers Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi – who testified before the grand jury that indicted BALCO founder Victor Conte. No athletes were indicted.

Before Jamaica, Jones had competed in several meets with mixed results. She finished a disappointing fourth in the 200 at the Mount SAC Relays last month in her first outdoor meet since 2002 because: “I was so hyped to be back in California, to be running one of my favourite events.”

But she rebounded with a strong performance at the Penn Relays a week later, anchoring the 800- and 400-metre relay teams to victories.

Jones was pleased with her start, especially since she has been working on it in training.

“I thought my start was good because I got ahead of some good starters like Tayna Lawrence and it was testimony that what we have been doing in practice is working,” she said.

As for Montgomery, his results so far this season have been a little disappointing. He finished third at the Mount SAC relays in 10.27.

Patton, the 2003 United States outdoor champion in the 200, was pleased with his finish.

“I’m not as well known as other guys like Montgomery and Capel,” Patton said. “I’m just trying to make a name for myself, trying to do well at meets like these and in Europe. So by the time the Olympics come around, I’ll be in good form.”

Gail Devers won the 100 hurdles in 12.50 seconds. (AP)

Compliments of the Nation News



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