Athletics: Sprinter Jones feels the pressure

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The Independent Online
MARION JONES yesterday admitted to feeling the pressure of expectation on her to break the world sprint records of the late Florence Griffiths Joyner.

Her comments came after she won the Jesse Owens Memorial Award on Tuesday night as the outstanding woman athlete in the United States this year.

"I think the world records are possible, but I'm not going to say they're going to happen," the 23-year-old athlete said. "Before my career ends, maybe they will happen. But I don't need the pressure [of thinking about them]."

Joyner, who was known as Flo Jo and died earlier this year, set records of 10.49sec for the 100m and 21.34 sec for the 200m. This year, Jones ran 10.65 and 21.62.

Jones has been competing full-time for only 18 months. She, along with the men's Owens Award winner, John Godina, and some other young athletes, are being counted on to resurrect the sport in America.

"Track and field in the United States is in a terrible state," she said. "But the idea of the younger athletes trying to bring the sport back to the popularity of years ago is unfair. We can run fast, jump high and throw far, but somebody else has to contribute to bring back the sport. That's too much pressure [for us]."

Godina agreed. "It's unfair to heap the problems in the sport on people who were not there when the problems began," Godina, 26, said. "It's a challenge, but I think it can be brought back."

Jones won 36 consecutive finals in the 60m, 100m, 200m, 400m and long jump during the 1998 season before finishing second to Germany's Heike Drechsler in the long jump at the World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa. Godina was a world leader in two events. He hurled the shot putt 21.78m and threw the discus 69.9m.

Because of their prowess, the two are among the most highly sought track and field athletes in the world, but plan to compete less in 1999 than they did this year.

Since the 200m is the only one of Jones' three major events that will be a Grand Prix event next year, she plans to concentrate on that race leading up to the World Championships in Seville, Spain. There, she will go for four golds medals - in the 100m, 200m, long jump and a relay. She will miss the entire indoor season.

Godina will throw at only three indoor meets, including the USA Championships at Atlanta and the World Championships at Maebashi, Japan. He then will compete on a limited basis on the lucrative European circuit, so he will be at his peak in his quest for a shot-discus double at the World Championships.