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Jones' comeback continues with easy win

30 May 2006

Marion Jones' start may have been awful, but her finish was nothing short of awesome.

The triple gold medalist out of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games has never been known for her speed out of the starting blocks, but her explosiveness in the latter stages of her races has often been something to behold.

So it was on Sunday in the eastern Netherlands community of Hengelo.

Seven of the eight competitors lined up against the 30-year-old Jones beat her out of the starting blocks, but none was close to her by the finish of the featured women's 100m dash at the annual Fanny Blankers-Koen Games, Holland's biggest day on the international athletics calendar.

Continuing the hot pace in this comeback season, Jones is displaying her best form since the all-conquering phase of her career, which began in 1997 and kept rolling through 2002. For sure, she's run the 100m a whole lot faster than the 11.16 seconds it took her Sunday -- in fact she ran 11.06 in Xalapa, Mexico, two weeks ago -- but it was the way she did it here in the cold, windy conditions that impressed most observers.

Relatively slow time or not, some might even be tempted to say that this was vintage Marion Jones on display. Has she really put a season off on maternity leave, along with the series of setbacks, injuries and the clouds of alleged drug involvement, behind her?

Stay tuned, say the sport's devotees.

Once Jones reached top gear in Hengelo, there was no catching her. Britain's Emma Ania was a distant second in 11.59 seconds, just ahead of American Angela Williams, who ran 11.60, and Britain's Joice Maduaka, at 11.69.

"The start may have been less sharp [than in Mexico], but technically I ran a better race," Jones told an international media assemblage. "I am healthy and ready to run fast. My goal is to run faster than I already have this year."

Unless some other booking emerges, Jones will have nearly three weeks off before running next.

She is next scheduled to appear at the USA National Outdoor Championships, June 21-25 in Indianapolis, in a meet that will determine the makeup of the American team bound for the IAAF World Cup.

At the moment, Jones stands fourth on the IAAF list for the women's 100m, currently topped by Jamaica's Veronica Campbell (10.99) and Kerron Stewart (11.03) and America's Allyson Felix (11.04.)

All-time, Jones owns seven of the 11 fastest 100m times ever recorded in athletics history, topped by the 10.65 she ran at Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1998. But she never did make a serious run at the world record of 10.49 that the late Florence Griffith-Joyner rocketed to in 1988.

Interestingly, all the world's sprinters continue playing the global game of catch-up. The fastest time thus far recorded in the 21st century is the 10.75 Jones ran at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Just one other 21st century performance -- the 10.77 by Ivet Lalova of Bulgaria in 2004 -- qualifies for the world top-21 list.

While Jones' run on Sunday was far short of the year's best mark, the FBK meet did produce two top marks for 2006.

Czech Republic's Svatoslav Ton soared 2.32 meters (7 feet, 7 1/4 inches) to add a centimeter to the men's high jump rankings, and Meseret Defer of Ethiopia ran away from a solid field in the women's 5,000m to lower the 2006 best to 14:35.57.

Sweden's Stefan Holm, the 2004 Olympic high jump champion, showed he's rounding back into familiar form, clearing 2.26 meters (7 feet, 5 inches) in a tie for third place. The women's 5,000m lead in 2006 had been the property of Kenya's Isabella Ochichi since her 14:57.84 victory at the Commonwealth Games in March, but Defer's pace would have left her somewhere around the final turn.

Olusoji Fasuba of Nigeria -- now best known as the man who extended Justin Gatlin to his world record-equaling mark of 9.77 in the 100m in Doha -- was nowhere near that pace in the difficult conditions but still won in a relatively pedestrian 10.33 seconds.

Hengelo athletics fans are always keen on distance running and the men's 10,000m did not disappoint. At the front, it was a Kenyan parade, with Ibrahim Jeylan (27:15.90), Micah Kogo (27:16.75) and Moses Mosop (27:17.00) running 1-2-3 but back in seventh, America's Abdi Abdirahman was clocking an all-time best of 27:22.81. Running 10th was U.S.A.'s Dathan Ritzenhein in 27:45.68.

Among other things, the FBK meet was billed as a homecoming for the host nation's two great stars of the 2005 Helsinki World Championships. But neither was in last year's form -- shot putter Rutger Smith settled for third place and pole vaulter Rens Blom was relegated to seventh.

Other Americans enjoyed the Hengelo festivities, as well, especially a quartet of women's 400m hurdlers.

It was an American parade over the finish line as Lashinda Demus (54.70), Sandra Glover (56.63) and Sheena Johnson finishing first, third and fourth, respectively. Great Britain's Natasha Danvers (56.29) spoiled the American sweep.

Two American high hurdlers had a big day, too. David Payne (13.35) beat out countryman Robby Hughes (13.48) with Britain's Andy Turner (13.61).

The next major stop on the European Grand Prix athletics circuit is Ostrava, Czech Republic, for the Golden Spike meeting on Tuesday night.

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