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For Jones, any game is right game

THE BALTIMORE SUN

SYDNEY, Australia - Small measurements of time make a big difference in track. Maurice Greene finished .12 of a second ahead of Ato Boldon in winning the gold medal in the men's 100 meters last night and, according to Boldon, Greene "destroyed" the field.

That should give you an appreciation for what Marion Jones did last night in winning the women's 100 final by .37 of a second, more than three times Greene's margin of victory.

Jones was more decisive than Tiger Woods at the U.S. Open and British Open combined, more dominant than the Dream Team against poor New Zealand.

"I knew before the race that I had no chance," said Ekaterini Thanou of Greece, who won the silver medal.

Jones was so superior on a cool night at Sydney Olympic Park that suddenly it was clear that her dream of winning five gold medals at the 2000 Summer Olympics wasn't the least bit preposterous - if it were all up to her, that is.

"She's going to win a lot of medals," Thanou said. "Whether they're all gold, I don't know. But she will do very, very well."

Jones is just as dominant in the 200 meters, which she is a lock to win later this week. That's two golds. After that, things get a little trickier. The long jump is her weakest event, and both the 400-meter and 1,600-meter relays are in disarray. She's going to need help to win five.

Too bad. If it were all up to her, she could win five, six, however many golds she wants.

She isn't just the No. 1 women's athlete in track, she's the best women's athlete in the entire Olympics. And it's not even close.

A former basketball star for the University of North Carolina, she could start in the professional WNBA right now and certainly could play for the U.S. women's basketball team dominating the field in Sydney.

The World Cup-winning U.S. women's soccer team probably could find a place for her, too.

The U.S. softball team, struggling for offense in Sydney, could benefit from a quick bat and some speed on the base paths.

Hey, Jones probably should have crossed the finish line last night and kept running right out of the stadium and across the street to the swimming venue, where Australia was beating the United States for the gold medal in women's water polo. With a little training, she surely could sparkle at that sport, too.

Come to think of it, give her a few weeks on the driving range with Butch Harmon, Tiger's swing coach, and, well, never mind.

Basically, she can do whatever she wants.

She hates to run the 400 meters, but she had to run it once earlier this year in order to become eligible for the 1,600 relay in Sydney. How did she fare in her one shot at a race she loathes? She ran the second-fastest time in the world this year.

Imagine if she cared about the 400. She'd be a lock to win the gold there, too.

In fact, some track observers have suggested that if she really wanted to win five golds, she should have run the 400 and skipped the long jump, at which she is merely human, as opposed to the running events. Oh, well.

"Can I please enjoy [winning] this one for at least a couple minutes?" she said with a genial smile after her victory in the 100, when asked about the problems with the relays and her "Drive For Five."

The problems are real and serious. None of her 1,600-meter relay teammates ran the 400 meters well enough to qualify for tomorrow's final, and Jones was the only American to qualify for the 100-meter final last night. The Bahamas, which had three in the 100 final, certainly appears to have a deeper 400-meter relay.

"I know there are some problems here and there," Jones said of the relays. "But I'm confident that we'll get things together when it's time."

Hey, here's an idea: Let Jones run all four legs of both relays.

She'd probably have a better chance of winning.

If anything, that became clear last night when she won a semifinal and final within 70 minutes and didn't even need her highest gear, although she went to it in the final strides of the final.

"You guys have no idea how hard that was," she said, trying to be nice.

Actually, she had the worst vantage point. From in front of the pack, she couldn't see how far behind everyone else was.

As she crossed the finish line, she smiled, leapt into the air with joy and pumped her arms, then quickly sank to her knees and wept.

"I was so excited because I thought about all the hard days of work paying off," she said, "and then I looked over and saw my family, and I pretty much lost it."

She quickly recovered and took a victory lap around the track, waving to the crowd with her infectious smile.

"I'm going to take a day off to be with my family, and then I'm going back to work on these other events," she said. "I have big goals here. We all know what they are."

If she wants to win five, she might need to suit up and play for the U.S. basketball team in the medal round later this week.

Come to think of it, they probably could use her on the U.S. volleyball team, too.

Did anyone ask her about trampoline?

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