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September 23, 2000
Maurice, Marion up to speedThe Rediff Team
Two of the three Ms of American athletics strolled through their pet events, reducing class fields in the men's and women's 100m to the status of hapless spectators.
Marion Jones -- who, at age five, asked her mother when the world would roll out a red carpet for her and who, later, scrawled 'I will be an Olympic champion' on her school blackboard, delivered with a barnstorming run in the women's sprint, breasting the tape in 10.75 seconds.
It was outside the World (10.49) and Olympic (10.54) records, both standing in the name of Florence Griffith Joyner, and in fact outside her own best timing, but then, Jones was running virtually by herself, with no one to push her.
When Marion Jones took her mark, preparatory to racing, and the announcer called her name, the crowd stood to applaud in the way reserved for champions -- never mind that she hadn't run in anger yet.
Wearing chrome-plated shoes specially designed for her by Nike, Jones took off from the blocks and within the first 5 paces, had taken the lead. In an incredible display of running, she built a lead of a few feet by the halfway mark, and from there on, merely coasted the rest of the distance, raising her arm in a victory salute and smiling broadly even before she had breasted the tape.
The other seven contenders ran a different race, with Ekaterini Thanou of Greece coming in second in 11.12 seconds and Tanya Lawrence touching base third in 11.18.
Having claimed her first gold in a promised haul of five (which, if she pulls it off, will equal the tally of Paavo Johannes Nurmi, of Finland, in 1924), she then completed a lap of the stadium, queening it for the press photographers of the world who trailed along after her, seemingly intent on recording every step, every expression.
Watching, from the sidelines, was world shot put champion C J Hunter -- better known, perhaps, as Marion Jones' husband.
She had barely completed her victory lap and left centre-stage, when the other M, Maurice Greene, came out to complete his share of the formalities. Shoulders rocking and hips rolling in the typical Greene swagger, tongue flickering out of his mouth almost as though he could taste the triumph to come, Greene took his time settling down on the blocks.
The gun went -- and two heartbeats later, Greene had already pulled away from the pack, and was running his own race.
9.87 seconds later, Greene -- tongue probing the air again -- was flashing the Number One sign as he crossed the finish line. 0.12 seconds later, his close friend and training partner Ato Boldon of Trinidad & Tobago, the only man who gave him a semblance of a chase, joined him (9.99 seconds), and Obadele Thompson of Barbados came in third, clocking 10.04.
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