Athletics: Jones has jackpot in sights

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The Independent Online
MARION JONES, who is seeking four gold medals at this summer's World Championships, sets out tonight in pursuit of a more financially orientated goal when she runs in the Oslo Grand Prix, the first of the 1999 Golden League meetings.

The world 100 metres champion is hoping to repeat her achievement of last year when she shared the $1m (pounds 600,000) jackpot on offer to athletes winning their event at all of the Golden League meetings, and the concluding grand prix final.

But for Jones, who had to split the money three ways last season with Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie and Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj, this year holds out an even richer prospect. Although she has one more Golden League meeting to run, following the increase to seven this year, she is the only one of last year's jackpot winners to have an event available in which she can contend for another big pay day. The IAAF, which rotates the eligible events each year, has decided that neither the 1,500m nor the 3,000m will count this year, and although the event in which Jones was unbeaten last season, the 100m, is also off the schedule, she can pursue the cash by competing at 200m.

Jones is one of the highest profile athletes competing in the Bislett Stadium in a meeting which will be televised on BBC1 following the corporation's exclusive contract to show the IAAF Golden League series. The deal, which was announced before the weekend, is thought to be worth around $600,000 (pounds 375,000) and represents an encouraging advance for an institution which has come under heavy fire following the loss of numerous sports to satellite rivals.

There will be a one-hour recorded package on BBC1, fronted by Roger Black and starting at 12.05pm. But a BBC spokesperson said yesterday that if the rain fell at Wimbledon, there may well be some live transmissions from Oslo earlier in the evening.

Rain, however, threatens to put a damper on Gebrselassie's ambition of breaking his own world 5,000m record of 12min 39.36sec. The weather forecast in Oslo is for a continuation of rainy, gloomy conditions.

Steve Backley, Britain's European javelin champion, competes in what is one of his favourite stadiums, still seeking to find the timing which has eluded him in recent meetings. Elsewhere, Paula Radcliffe, the only winner for Britain's women team at the European Cup in Paris earlier this month, runs in a strong 3,000m field, which includes Morocco's Zahra Ouaziz and Radcliffe's old rival, Gabriela Szabo, a runaway winner of the European Cup 1,500m.

Allen Johnson, America's Olympic and world high hurdles champion, makes an appearance, and although Britain's Colin Jackson will not be competing, Johnson will have his 1999 world leading time of 13.11sec - set in Dortmund last Saturday - in his sights.

In the men's 200m, Ato Boldon, who has clocked 19.88sec this season, will seek to maintain his early season form as he heads for Seville, where he defends his world title.