Normal service was restored in the world of women's sprinting here as Marion Jones, whose four-year unbeaten run over 100 metres was brought to a shuddering halt by Zhanna Pintusevich-Block on Monday, secured the 200m title.
Jones's time of 22.39sec, despite being well outside the personal best of 21.76sec she set four years ago, was enough to see off the challenge of a field that did not include the Ukrainian who defeated her at the shorter sprint. Even so, Jones looked fleetingly as if she might falter as she entered the final 80 metres before regrouping her forces and striving to the line ahead of Debbie Ferguson of the Bahamas, who took silver in 22.39sec, and fellow US runner Kelli White, who was third in 22.56sec.
It was not one of her more elegant or apparently effortless performances, but she expressed satisfaction at getting the job done. "I was disappointed after the 100," she said. It was important to prove to myself that I can still get to that finish line first and I can still leave my heart on the track. I didn't feel the others coming, but I did feel myself getting tired. I came here to win the 100, 200 and relay and the 100 didn't happen. But I can tell you, prior to the race, I was a bit emotional. When I crossed the line and looked over at the clock it wasn't extremely fast. But a gold medal is a gold medal."
Jones thus extends an unbeaten run in 200m competitions which stretches back six years and involves 26 wins. "I could feel Marion slowing down," said Ferguson. "I was gaining. But I got too hasty."
It was Jones's first world 200m title. Four years ago she won the 100m and long jump in Athens, and in Seville two years ago, seeking four golds, she pulled up during her 200m semi-final.
Since then the 25-year-old former NCAA-winning basketball player she has endured an awkward Olympics, where she won three of the five golds she sought but became embroiled in controversy as her husband CJ Hunter, the former world champion shot putter, tested positive for nandrolone. Their divorce was announced earlier this year.
Jones shrugged off the speculation over why she has not been running near her best this year. "It has actually made me laugh a bit," she said. "Not too many people, besides those in my camp, know what's going on in my world and in my head. To sit back and read all these different predictions of what's happening in my life, it's been kind of comical."
On a night when Jones restored her sprinting record, Kenya's return to winning ways in middle-distance running was confirmed by Richard Limo's victory in the 5,000m over a field that included the Algerian favourite, Ali Saidi-Sief and Ethiopia's Olympic champion Million Wolde. The race replicated Tuesday's 10,000m final, where Kenyan teamwork set up Charles Kamathi to outsprint Haile Gebrselassie over the final 80 metres. This time it was the 20-year-old Limo who produced a final flourish to finish in 13min 00.77sec before declaring: "I wanted to show the world the Kenyans are back!"
He added that the Kenyan plan had been to make it a fast race to draw some of the finishing power of Saidi-Sief, who took silver in 13.02.16, and Wolde, who was third in 13.03.47. Sammy Kipketer, the 19-year-old who forced the pace for most of the proceedings, later faded to sixth, but could do so in the knowledge that important work had been done.
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