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September 27, 2000
Jones sails through 200m heatsThe Rediff Team
Marion Jones left controversy behind her and, to a rousing cheer as her name was announced, returned to track duty in the qualifiers of the 200m.
Running in the first heat, Jones almost sleep-walked through in 22.75 seconds this morning.
Also advancing to the second round were US runners Torri Edwards and Nanceen Perry -- the latter incidentally has the third fastest time in the world to her name. Sri Lanka's Susantika Jayasinghe ran impressively to finish first in her own heat.
Cathy Freeman, who won an emotional 400m in front of her home crowd the other day, also qualified, placing third in her own heat, in a time of 23.11.
In her quest for five golds, Jones faces one of her hardest tests today when she returns in the evening session to run the second, or pre-semifinal, round of the 200m, immediately followed by the qualifiers for her weakest event, the long jump.
Meanwhile, high drama was seen on the track when, in Wednesday's morning session, world record holder and world hammer throw champion Mihaela Melinte of Romania was escorted away by officials when she attempted to compete in the women's hammer throw. Two days ago, Romanian officials had been informed that she had failed a pre-Games drug test. She tested positive for nandrolone, and was informed of her suspension on Monday.
More drama followed when Marla Runyan, legally blind since age nine, qualified for the next round of the women's 1500m. Runyan has a vision disability called Stargardt's Disease, which in lay terms means a hole in her central vision. She thus has 20-300 vision in one eye, and 20-400 vision in the other.
She sees the track through her peripheral vision, and recognises fellow competitors by their hairstyle and running styles. She placed seventh in her heat, timing 4:10.83 seconds, and then refused to use her lack of sight as an excuse. "It was great running in front of this crowd," she said. The crowd responded to her presence with the biggest roar heard till date, outpointing the one that greeted Cathy Freeman.
In a surprise elimination, defending champion Svetlana Masterkova of Russia dropped out of the 1500, when she pulled up after running just 50 metres. Masterkova is reigning world champion over the distance, and besides this event, also holds an 800m gold won in Atlanta in 1996.
In the first round of the men's 200m this morning, Ato Boldon eased through in 20.52. Following the withdrawals of Michael Johnson and Maurice Greene, Boldon is the favourite for the event, while John Capel, who qualified fastest in the US team trials after both Johnson and Greene pulled up in mid-race, led fellow Americans Floyd Heardand Coby Miller through into the next round, which will be held later this evening.
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