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Sprints more fun without Jones

Gene Cherry in Athens | August 18, 2004 17:09 IST

With no clear-cut favourite, the women's sprints at the Athens Olympics will be more exciting than they were four years ago when Marion Jones dominated, according to Caribbean sprinters Debbie Ferguson and Veronica Campbell.

"It takes all the fun (out) when you know that person is going to win," Bahamian Olympic 4x100 metres relay gold medallist Ferguson said at a news conference on Tuesday. "You don't even have to watch."

But fans will be "patiently waiting to see" who wins in Athens, said Campbell, who helped Jamaica to win the 4x100 metres relay silver in Sydney.

"Everyone is going to be watching," said Ferguson, "whether it's the women's 100 metres or the men's 100 metres. That puts more excitement in it."

Triple Olympic champion Jones was untouchable in the sprints in Sydney. She won the 100 metres by more than three-tenths of a second and claimed the 200 by an even larger margin.

Ferguson does not see a similar outcome in Athens.

"The women's 100 metres is definitely open," she said. "There is no one woman you can say that person will get the gold and that person the silver."

On form, France's Christine Arron, Americans LaTasha Colander and Lauryn Williams and Bulgaria's Ivet Lalova are the top contenders in the women's 100 metres.

Campbell carries the favourite's role in the 200 metres, but it is not a title she seeks.

"I don't like to talk like that," said Campbell, who has the year's top time, 22.18 seconds. "Anything can happen. This is the Olympics."

Young American Allyson Felix could be her main challenger.

Ferguson was a finalist in both the 100 and 200 metres in Sydney. But her real joy came in the 4x100 metres relay where the Bahamas claimed gold.

Relay expectations are not as high this year.

"On paper (the team) is not like Sydney," Ferguson said. "(That) team was definitely stronger. However, how we get the baton around will be the key thing."

The Americans -- with Jones -- appear to be favourites.

Athens 2004: The Complete Coverage

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