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September 23, 2000
Greene and Jones go for goldRalph Gowling
Maurice Greene and Marion Jones are the hot favourites to win the money-spinning king and queen sprint titles at the Sydney Olympics on Saturday.
They and their rivals will be spurred on by the knowledge that big money will be on offer from sponsors and advertisers if they strike gold in the 100 metres finals.
The weathermen are offering another incentive -- near-perfect conditions to push that bit harder to go for greater glory by breaking the world records.
Twenty-six golds will be up for grabs at the Games on Saturday on what organisers hope will be a day of thrill-a-minute sporting action that will put the doping scourges of the past few days out of the headlines.
Canada's defending 100 metres Olympic champion Donovan Bailey crashed out in Friday's heats but the rest of the big names in men's and women's sprinting cruised through on the first day of track and field competition before a 110,000-capacity crowd.
Bailey, who had complained of flu, seemed to give up in his heat, finishing third in obvious distress. He failed to qualify for the semifinals.
World champion Greene of the United States, the 100 metre world record holder, had no such trouble clocking a confident 10.31 seconds.
Asked what he predicted for Saturday's final, Greene grinned and said: "Great things."
Compatriot Jones began her bid for five gold medals with unruffled victories in the first two rounds of the women's 100 metres. She eased across the line in 11.20 seconds.
"I'm having a ball," she said. "I just wanted to set up my body for tomorrow mentally and physically. I know what I can do, now is the time to do it."
Jamaican Merlene Ottey, whose team mates protested at her inclusion in the 100 metres after the world governing body's arbitration panel lifted her drug ban for the steroid nandrolone, won both her heats.
Another athlete reinstated after a drug ban, Cuba's high jump world record holder Javier Sotomayor, finished top in his qualifying group. Sotomayor had a two-year ban for using cocaine halved on humanitarian grounds.
Olympic champion Charles Austin of the United States failed to qualify for Sunday's final.
Defending champion and world record holder Michael Johnson, one of the biggest stars of the Atlanta Olympics, coasted through the first round of the 400 metres.
The patriotic crowd roared when Cathy Freeman showed why she is favourite to win the 400 metres title. The 27-year-old, an Aborigine who says she represents a modern, multicultural Australia, won her first-round race, winding down in the last 50 metres.
Freeman, who lit the Olympic cauldron a week ago, has become an even hotter tip for gold since her rival Marie-Jose Perec fled to Paris complaining of harassment in Sydney.
The Atlanta 400 metres winner gave the media she loathes the slip in Paris, adding to the mystery surrounding her night-time flight.
France's sports minister said the Guadeloupe-born runner had "cracked under the pressure of the Australian press" that dubbed her the Greta Garbo of athletics for her wish "to be alone".
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