ATHLETICS: Jones ready to hit jackpot

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The Independent Online
MARION JONES stands to collect at least pounds 340,000 in one of the biggest pay-days in athletics history at the Grand Prix Final in Moscow tonight.

Jones is one of four still in the running to share in the $1m (pounds 625,000) jackpot on offer to those who remain unbeaten through the six Golden League meetings and today's final. The 22-year-old, undefeated in any competition so far this summer, looks assured of a comfortable victory in the 100m which would clinch the pounds 120,000 prize on offer to the women's overall Grand Prix champion.

Jones will also add another pounds 30,000 for winning the sprint event and repeat that amount if she is victorious in the long jump. The riches could be even greater if any of the other jackpot contenders - Hicham El Guerrouj in the 1500m, Haile Gebrselassie in the 3,000m, and Bryan Bronson in the 400m hurdles - slump to defeat.

Unlike the other three, Jones delayed her arrival in the Russian capital until yesterday because of the security fears which led around 50 athletes, mostly Americans, to sign a petition calling for the final to be moved. "They prance around Europe all summer like Rambo, but at the first hint of danger they cannot face it," said Vitaly Smirnov, the President of Russia's Olympic Committee.

The Moroccan El Guerrouj can also contemplate similar riches to Jones if he can win the 1500m and take the overall men's award. He has already banked a pounds 30,000 bonus for setting a world record at the Golden League meeting in Rome.

Gebrselassie, of Ethiopia, should also hang on to his bonus in the 3,000m despite an unconvincing victory in Berlin last Tuesday, but most at threat appears to be the hurdler Bronson. The American won by just 0.01sec in Berlin over Stephane Diagana, France's world champion, who could still wreck his jackpot dreams.

"I wasn't seeing dollar signs coming off the last hurdle," said Bronson. "If I had thought about the money I would have tightened up and probably lost."