The biggest news of the night was that Marion Jones did not win the long jump. Her bronze-medal finish ended her dreams of winning four gold medals at the world track and field championships.
But however unusual it was to see the star sprinter's name in third place on the Olympic Stadium scoreboard, far more peculiar things happened well after the conclusion of the event that left Jones humbled -- but still with hopes of bringing home three golds.
Spaniard Niurka Montalvo won the gold medal on her last leap, causing the predominately Spanish crowd to erupt in flag-waving, cheering, dancing pandemonium. Even more of a clamor, however, was arising in the dark, stuffy bowels of the stadium.
As Montalvo draped herself in her nation's flag and soaked up the cheers of the joyous crowd, silver medalist Fiona May of Italy stormed off the field. Once underneath the stands, she threw her arms into the air, waving blue-painted fingernails, and complained that a foul had not been called on Montalvo's winning jump of 23 feet 2 inches.
Indeed, television replays indicated that Montalvo's toe might have been over the line when she made her leap.
Even the good-natured Jones, who took her defeat in her weakest event perfectly in stride, said she thought Montalvo might have fouled. But a jury of appeals assembled by the world governing body of track and field reviewed the jump and declared it legal after the Italian federation filed a protest on behalf of May.
The confusion resulted in the cancellation of the typical post-event news conference and took some of the luster out of Montalvo's victory.
It also left May, who jumped 22-9 1/4, insisting she had been twice deprived of a better finish at the world championships. A bronze medalist in Athens in 1997, May said she was robbed then, too, when her last jump was improperly ruled a foul.
"I don't want to be unsportsmanlike, but everyone saw it," May said as tears streaked her face. "What can I say?"
No one could accuse Jones of lacking sportsmanship. When the 23-year-old star landed her last jump, knowing she had no chance for the gold, she got up from the sand with a smile on her face. She shook her head, but the grin never left. She waved to the crowd, which bestowed its appreciation with a standing ovation. Jones's best effort of the night was 22-5.
"I wanted to come here and win every event I was entered in, but it didn't happen for me," said Jones, who competes in the 200 and 4x100 later this week (she won the gold in the 100 meters Sunday). "I'll sleep well tonight knowing I left it all out there. It just didn't happen for me tonight."
Jones's relative inexperience in the long jump showed. She seemed to be getting by on speed alone, failing to demonstrate the technical expertise of the other top competitors. She lacked grace in the air and landed hard on her knees in the pit -- looking as if she were in danger of injuring herself.
"My specialty is running," she said. "I have the speed, now we just have to go back to the drawing board and work on some things."
Though Jones said in May she planned to go undefeated in the long jump this year, she has struggled. She finished second at the U.S. championship -- by seven inches -- to Dawn Burrell. She has lost three straight long-jump competitions and four of her last six.
Still, Jones faced a cluster of reporters immediately after the event, graciously laughing into television cameras and offering an upbeat appraisal of the night's disappointment. Meanwhile, controversy was slowing blooming all around her.
May, 29, made her way through crowds of reporters, spewing dissatisfaction as she went. The world champion in 1995, the British-born May competed for England until 1993. She became an Italian citizen after marrying Italian pole vaulter Gianni Iapachino.
May pleaded her case to reporters as Italian officials lodged their protest.
Montalvo, meanwhile, never got to offer a lengthy statement, as she was ushered away until the confusion was resolved. Before departing, she told a cluster of Spanish reporters that her jump was legitimate. Her news conference was postponed until Tuesday.
The only post-event address came from track officials, who confirmed that Montalvo remained the champion.
The Cuban-born Montalvo, 31, began competing for Spain in May. The silver medalist at the 1995 worlds, Montalvo married a Spaniard and moved to Spain in 1998.
"It was mighty close," Jones said. "Other than that, unless I'm the man with the flag, who knows?"
TRACK AND FIELD
In Seville, Spain
1, Christopher Koskei, Kenya, 8:11.76; 2, Wilson Boit Kipketer, Kenya, 8:12.09; 3, Ali Ezzine, Morocco, 8:12.73; 4, Damian Kallabis, Germany, 8:13.11; 5, Bernard Barmasai, Kenya, 8:13.51; 6, Eliseo Martin, Spain, 8:16.09; 7, Paul Kosgei, Kenya, 8:17.55; 8, Florin Ionescu, Romania, 8:18.17; 9, Guenther Weidlinger, Austria, 8:19.02; 10, Giuseppe Maffei, Italy, 8:22.65; 11, Elarbi Khattabi, Morocco, 8:24.62; 12, Bouabdallah Tahri, France, 8:25.59.
1, Vyacheslav Voronin, Russia, 7-9 1/4; 2, Mark Boswell, Canada, 7-8 1/2; 3, Martin Buss, Germany, 7-7 1/4; 4, Dragutin Topic, Yugoslavia, 7-7 1/4; 5, Staffan Strand, Sweden, 7-6; 6 (tie), Kwaku Boateng, Canada, and Jin-Taek Lee, South Korea, 7-6; 8 (tie), Charles Austin, United States, and Brendan Reilly, Ireland, 7-6; 10 (tie), Stefan Holm, Sweden; Abderahmane Hammad, Algeria; and Wilbert Pennings, Netherlands, 7-4 1/2. Steve Smith, Britain, NM.
1, Niurka Montalvo, Spain, 23-2; 2, Fiona May, Italy, 22-9 1/4; 3, Marion Jones, United States, 22-5; 4, Lyudmila Galkina, Russia, 22-4 1/2; 5, Joanne Wise, Britain, 22-1 3/4; 6, Dawn Burrell, United States, 22-1 1/2; 7, Susen Tiedtke, Germany, 21-11; 8, Maurren Higa Maggi, Brazil, 21-11; 9, Nicole Boegman, Australia, 21-9; 10, Erica Johansson, Sweden, 21-9; 11, Olga Rublyova, Russia, 21-6 1/4; 12, Shana Williams, United States, 21-4 3/4. Discus
1, Franka Dietzsch, Germany, 223-6; 2, Anastasia Kelesidou, Greece, 216-8; 3, Nicoleta Grasu, Romania, 214-5; 4, Natalya Sadova, Russia, 213-2; 5, Beatrice Faumuina, New Zealand, 212-0; 6, Seilala Sua, United States, 209-1; 7, Yelena Antonova, Ukraine, 208-8; 8, Stella Tsikouna, Greece, 208-1; 9, Irina Yatchenko, Belarus, 206-8; 10, Ellina Zvereva, Belarus, 205-10; 11, Ekaterini Voggoli, Greece, 200-1; 12, Anja Moellenbeck, Germany, 195-1.