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September 16, 2000

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Schedule could trip Marion's quest

John Mehaffey

Marion Jones on Saturday identified the mere 90-minute gap between the 200 metres semifinals and the final as her biggest challenge at the Sydney Olympics.

In her only scheduled news conference before she opens her campaign for five gold medals next Friday, Jones spoke confidently, calmly and frankly about the obstacles in her course.

If all goes to plan, Jones will line up in the blocks on September 28 for the 200 semifinals, with the 100 metres gold medal stored for safe-keeping in the apartment she has rented with husband C.J. Hunter for the duration of the Games.

Ninety minutes later she will be back for the final, having in theory posted a time fast enough to give her a favourable line draw but slow enough to leave the 24-year-old American with plenty in reserve.

"I think this is going to be a big challenge for me just saving a bit for the final," she said.

"I am just going to have to put up a time then 1- hours later run the fastest time of my life. This is going to be a big challenge."

Questioned about the long jump, her weakest event, Jones said the key for her was hitting the board.

"The speed is without any doubt there," she said. "I need to be a lot more relaxed and a lot more confident in the runup."

Two years ago Jones's manager, Charles Wells, startled American track and field writers and seized the headlines by spelling out Jones's Sydney ambitions.

Five gold medals, one more than Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens, was the target with Jones opting to run the 4x400 metres relay as well as the 4x100.

"I had successes in the 100 and 200 and the long jump," Jones said. "I just put two and three together. I have shown that I can run fast times in the 400 in the last couple of years.

"I am definitely going to be running on adrenalin."

Jones dismissed concerns about probable wind and possible cold in Stadium Australia.

"I would only be worried if the wind was only in my lane but everybody has got to deal with it," she said.

"It's taken me 20 years to get here and I'm not concerned about what Mother Nature does."

Asked if she was feeling the pressure, Jones shook her head slowly and smiled.

"Nope," she said. "No. My days are filled with anticipation. I can truthfully tell you my days are not filled with doubt and hesitation. I'm just excited."

Jones said she had decided to embrace the whole Olympic experience.

"I am 24 years old and at my first Olympic Games and I have every intention of enjoying myself. I'm going to take it all in.

"I will see a number of events and everyone is saying 'come to watch sailing and watch shooting'. I will have to learn the rules first."

In a consummate 30-minute performance, the university communications major also found time to give the world's media plenty to speculate about in the runup to the start of the track and field programme next Friday.

"I'm in the best shape of my life," she said. "Wonderful things are bound to happen here. We will all just have to wait and see."

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