- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 25, 2002

Marion Jones has been hugely successful by letting her feet do the talking. It's when her mouth starts running that the 26-year-old sprint queen and communications major lands herself in trouble.
Maybe she doesn't remember that after the 2000 Sydney Olympics, she harped over and over on the fact that she put too much pressure on herself by claiming she would win five gold medals. She only won three, in the 100, 200 and 4x400 relay, with bronzes in the long jump and 4x100.
The new Marion Jones, she said back then, was not going to stake such claims. Adopting the slogan of her sponsor, Nike, Jones would not talk about it as 2004 Athens drew closer she would "Just Do It."
Last week in advance for her much anticipated 100-meter matchup with 2001 World Champion Zhanna Pintusevich-Block in London, Jones apparently told the Times newspaper, "I want five golds in Athens. I want to beat [Florence Griffith-Joyners] records and I want to be great, so there's a lot there for me to be working on. I want people to talk about me in the same sentence as Pele, Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali, and I'm good at getting what I want."
It's a long two years to Athens, and Jones already is turning up the heat on herself. But she well could be on a destructive path if she continues her quest for five gold medals. The hard fact is that she has not run nearly as fast as she did three or four years ago. And she hasn't jumped since Sydney in 2000.
"I've had two years off after Sydney; my body and mind needed the break from something," she told the Associated Press last week in London. "Sprints are my breadwinner. I could have continued [long jumping], but it would have really been really breaking down my body. We're looking for longevity."
Pintusevich-Block beat Jones twice at the Worlds last year in the 100, and came into Friday's showdown with the year's best time of 10.83, ahead of Jones' 10.84. The Ukrainian must have taken a wrong turn to end up running 11.11, second to Jones' coasting 10.97.
A lot can happen in two years, but if Pintusevich-Block is still around, the 100-meter Olympic gold will not be a walk in the park for Jones. Nor has Jones come within half-a-second of her 21.62 clocking for the 200 in 1998, which put her third all-time behind Griffith-Joyner's 21.34 and 21.56.
Jones hasn't jumped within a zip code of her 7.31 meters in 1998, which made her the eighth-longest jumper in history. Her best jump of 2000 was 7.02 at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Will Heike Daute-Drechsler and Fiona May, who placed ahead of Jones at the 2000 Olympics, make it to Athens?
Is it worth hyperextending a knee on a landing, jamming the back or tearing a groin muscle on liftoff for one extra medal, risking four others? Drop the long jump, Marion.
And let's not forget that many other countries around the world are catching up to the Americans in the relays. The Bahamas, Jamaica, France and Germany are competitive in the 4x100. The 4x400 can be lost on a dropped baton, as Suzann Reid has discovered.
As for Jones surpassing Griffith-Joyner's 100 and 200 World marks from 1988, I don't think it will happen. It is enough that Jones is reaching for the moon this year in hoping to run 10.60, compared to her 10.65 best in 1998. Beating Griffith-Joyner's 10.49 world record set in 1998 is more like reaching for Pluto.
Relax, Marion. Even if you retire today, you still will go down as one of the world's greatest athletes.
Rodgers alert
Come out and run with the famous Bill Rodgers at the Kentlands/Lakelands 5K Run/Walk on Saturday. The 54-year-old Rodgers, four-time Boston and New York City marathon champ, is expected to tour the scenic course in Gaithersburg starting at 8:30 a.m.

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