Queen of Sydney falls flat at Russia's party

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The Independent Online

If there was any consolation for Marion Jones during the drugs controversy which has raged around her, it was the fact that she still had the chance to shine on the stage where she made history four years ago.

If there was any consolation for Marion Jones during the drugs controversy which has raged around her, it was the fact that she still had the chance to shine on the stage where she made history four years ago.

Although the 28-year-old American was never going to be able to repeat her performance in Sydney, when she became the first female track and field athlete to win five medals at a single Olympics, last night's long jump and sprint relay finals at least gave hope of recapturing some of her past glory.

It was not to be. Jones finished fifth in the long jump, which ended up as a procession for the three Russian finalists, and worse was to follow in the relay. The United States were well in contention as Jones attempted to hand over to Lauryn Williams at the end of the second leg. But Williams appeared to set off fractionally too early and by the time Jones had managed to pass on the baton in a horribly messy change-over it was too late. Jamaica went on to take the gold, ahead of Russia and France.

The long jump was the only competition for which Jones qualified directly for these Games, but she was never in contention. Gold went to Tatyana Lebedeva, who had wept with disappointment after taking bronze in the triple jump on Monday. Irina Simagina took silver and Tatyana Kotova bronze, all three women jumping over seven metres. Lebedeva's second jump of 7.07m sealed the victory, but the event never caught fire, particularly as Simagina and Kotova were unable to match their first-round jumps.

A banner near the long jump pit read: "Marion come back to fly, I have always been with you". However, the reception she was given was not as tumultuous as you would have expected for a champion with her Olympic record - a reflection, perhaps, of the controversies which have dogged her in recent times.

Although Jones has always denied taking drugs and has never failed a test, the US Anti-Doping Agency is investigating her, and her reputation has been damaged by both the admissions by her partner, Tim Montgomery, to the federal jury investigating the Balco laboratory and by allegations made by her former husband, CJ Hunter.

The Stars and Stripes sounded across the stadium as the competition neared a close, but it was played not to honour Jones but Shawn Crawford in the medal ceremony for the men's 200m. Jones, who was waiting to make her final jump, stood to attention, but failed to find inspiration. Her best leap, 6.85m, was nearly half a metre down on her personal best.

Jade Johnson finished seventh, with the consolation of setting a personal best. The 24-year-old Briton improved her mark by seven centimetres with a jump of 6.80m. However, she was not pleased. "I don't do seventh place," she said. "It has to be top five or I'm not happy, but that was probably one of the best long jump finals ever - three guys over seven metres. I gave it everything."

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