SPORTS

Striving for 2004 gold

RALEIGH, North Carolina – Triple Olympic champion Marion Jones said yesterday that she would cherish gold medals from August’s Athens Games more highly than those she won four years ago. «It would mean more to win golds in Athens than Sydney because of so much that has happened in my life since Sydney and so many obstacles that I have overcome,» Jones said in an interview on NBC television’s Today show. Jones, now a 28-year-old mother, could challenge for five gold medals again in Athens but will delay a decision until after the US Olympic trials in July. She is determined to enter the 100- and 200-meter races and long jump and may seek to run in the 4×100-meter and 4×400-meter relays. She did all five in 2000, winning three golds and two bronzes. But Jones added: «I am disappointed in my performance in Sydney. It was a great experience, don’t get me wrong, but I went there to get the whole kabang, everything.» Jones begins her runup for Athens on Sunday with a 400-meter race at the Mount San Antonio College Relays in Walnut, California. It will be her first outdoor race in 19 months. She took 2003 off to give birth to a son, Monty, whose father is Jones’s training partner Tim Montgomery, the world 100-meter record holder. She returned to competition over the winter, racing twice indoors and winning her first long jump since the 2000 Games. Since Sydney, she has divorced shot putter C.J. Hunter, whose positive test for steroids was announced at the Games, left longtime coach Trevor Graham and worked briefly with banned Canadian coach Charlie Francis before turning to American coach Dan Pfaff. She and Montgomery were called to testify last year before a federal grand jury looking into a California laboratory suspected of producing a new designer steroid. Jones repeated in the interview that she had never taken steroids. She also said people had formed the wrong opinion because she had been called to testify. «I never have and I never will [take performance-enhancing drugs]. I have been blessed with an incredible amount of talent. My work ethic is second to none. And I don’t feel the need to take any performance-enhancing drugs,» said Jones. «It’s guilt by association,» she added, arguing that some people, in the media in particular, felt that by testifying «we must be guilty of something, which is not the case.»