Star U.S. sprinter Marion Jones joyfully celebrated the first U.S. gold medal of the world track and field championships tonight at Olympic Stadium.
But Jones's celebration occurred in the stands, and she hadn't won a thing. Though she hopes to win four gold medals here, her first final--the 100 meters--won't take place until Sunday.
It was Jones's often-overlooked husband, C.J. Hunter, who provided tonight's gold-medal performance in the shot put, winning his first world title with a throw of 71 feet 6 inches--a toss that astonished his competitors and exceeded his personal best by more than a foot. Another great moment for the United States came from Stacy Dragila, who won the women's pole vault gold medal and tied the world record with a vault of 15-1.
The 330-pound Hunter, who was born in the District but grew up in Hyde Park, N.Y., clinched the gold and $60,000 in prize money on his final throw.
Silver medalist Oliver-Sven Buder of Germany tallied 70-3 1/2 and bronze medalist Aleksandr Bagach of Ukraine managed 69-9.
After his winning throw, Hunter let out a long roar, pointed to the sky and pumped his arms. He mouthed "I love you" to Jones, and acknowledged his coach Brian Blutreich.
"Other than the birth of my kids and my marriage to Marion, this is the happiest day of my life," said Hunter, who married Jones last October and has children from a previous marriage. "I'm a big-meet performer and I'm happy I was able to win it. I've been throwing well all year, and I was due."
In the first appearance of the women's pole vault in the world outdoor championships, Dragila's victory provided a fitting conclusion to a brilliant duel with silver medalist Anzhela Balakhonova of Ukraine (14-11).
Dragila, 29, of Auburn, Calif., missed her first attempt at the world-record height but converted the second. World record holder Emma George of Australia, who was slightly injured from a recent fall, bowed out of the competition early.
Dragila had only recently recovered from a stress fracture in her jumping leg, apparently caused when she participated in a street vault in the Czech Republic two years ago. Dragila had two screws inserted in her leg during surgery last September.
"I'm glad I'm back," Dragila said. "I feel great now."
Someone who wasn't feeling so great was defending shot put world champion John Godina of the United States. Godina suffered through a terrible night, sinking to a disappointing seventh-place finish that left him cursing and blinking back tears. His best effort was 66-9 1/4.
"It's hard to say what went wrong," Godina said. "Everything's spinning right now."
Hunter, 30, won the bronze in the 1997 world championships after Bagach fell out of the medal standings because of a positive drug test. Tonight, Hunter, in third place after his fifth toss, went for it all with his final throw.
"I just wanted to get into the ring and do absolutely everything I possibly could to win," he said.
Hunter said he planned to save his real celebrating for later in the week. Jones hopes to win not only the 100, but also the 200, the long jump and the 4x100 relay. She got off to a strong start today, setting a championship record with a 10.76--fastest in the world this year--in the semifinals of the 100. She needed two attempts at the long jump to advance to Monday's final.
Still, she proclaimed herself full of confidence in both events.
"Nothing else really matters unless you can make it count at a championship," she said.
And that's exactly what Hunter did.
He gladly took a raincheck on the victory party. Hunter summarized his evening plans with Jones:
"We'll shake hands, I'll give her a kiss, and that will be it."
Notes: District resident Steve Holman qualified easily for Sunday's 1,500 meter semifinals with the 13th fastest time of the day, 3 minutes 37.75 seconds. . . . Whitman High's Pascal Dobert took an early lead in the first round of the 3,000-meter steeplechase, but couldn't maintain it and failed to advance with a time of 8:33.42. . . . Silver Spring's Meredith Rainey Valmon, who has recently suffered from fatigue believed to be caused by an iron deficiency, also failed to advance to the semifinal round, posting a 2:00.86 in the 800 meters.