Jones sees her reign brought to an end

World Athletics Championships: American sprinter suffers shock defeat in final of women's 100 metres

By Mike Rowbottom
Monday 14 April 2014 04:12

Marion Jones, seeking to equal her team-mate Maurice Greene's feat of winning three consecutive world 100 metres titles, suffered the biggest upset there could possibly have been at these World Championships as she was beaten to the gold medal by Zhanna Pintusevich-Block, who had ended the American's 54-race unbeaten run in the semi-final.

Four years ago, believing that she had beaten Jones to win the 1997 world title, Pintusevich embarked on a lap of honour before sinking to her knees in dismay when it emerged that the American had finished two hundredths of a second ahead.

Yesterday, in the blazing sunshine of the Commonwealth Stadium, she sank to her knees and cried again, but this time she was overwhelmed by joy after finishing in 10.82sec, 0.03sec ahead of the defending champion, whose last 100m defeat was inflicted by Jamaica's Merlene Ottey in Tokyo a month after she had earned her first world title in 1997.

As Pintusevich tried to come to terms with the enormity of what she had achieved, still hunched down on the track, Jones – beaten twice in the space of three hours after four years without defeat – showed that she could act like a champion even when she wasn't by wandering over and embracing her stunned opponent.

The Ukrainian, dwarfed by the lanky and powerful figure of the American alongside her, got out of her blocks perfectly to establish an immediate lead as Jones wound herself up into full acceleration mode.

This was the point, at tracks the world over for the last few years, that Jones took over any race. But as she unfolded to her full height, the little Ukrainian remained half a stride ahead of her and her dip at the line carried her through to a victory which threatens to re-establish the landscape of women's sprinting.

It rounded off a year of turmoil for the 25-year-old former NCAA basketball player, who won five Olympic medals in Sydney, including three golds, against a background of suspicion caused by the emergence of a positive doping case involving her husband, the shot putter C J Hunter, from whom she has subsequently become divorced.

Jones's progress to the final had not been without unsettling incident from the earliest point. Although she recorded 10.93sec in her first round – the fastest time ever seen by a woman on Canadian soil – it was not before she had recorded a rare false start.

Had that occurred at the next World Championships, under the IAAF rule change agreed here before the action got under way, she would have been disqualified from the event, as the only allowable false start in the race had already gone to another athlete.

"I had to tell myself 'Alright now Marion, wake up'," she said after qualifying safely.

She received an even more urgent wake-up call in the semi-final, when the Ukrainian took advantage of her bad start to take a lead which she didn't lose, finishing 0.01sec ahead in 10.94, and rubbing things in by raising her right index finger into the air over the closing strides.

"I try not to get caught up in the streak," Jones said after her quarter-final win. "But I can remember losing to Merlene like it was yesterday. I hope it's a while before I feel that feeling again."

Unfortunately for her, that feeling was waiting to arrive. Now she will have to work hard, at the Zurich meeting and later at the Goodwill Games in Brisbane, to prove that she can reclaim the territory she has inhabited for the past four years.

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