After Saturday's 100-meter final at the U.S. Olympic trials, Marion Jones did what she failed to do during the race: She got out fast.
In the most stunning upset of her near legendary career, Jones finished fifth in Saturday's final, failing to qualify for the Olympic team in an event in which she won gold at the 2000 Summer Games.
Jones pulled up too quickly at the start, ran sluggishly throughout and could not muster her customary power at the finish. She finished in a mediocre time of 11.14 seconds, well behind LaTasha Colander, a 400-meter runner turned sprinter who won the race in a personal-best 10.97 seconds.
After the race, Jones pulled on a white baseball cap, put her head down and, flanked by two burly security guards, rushed out of the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex. She brushed past swarming fans and onrushing reporters and dropped into a golf cart just beyond the Hornet Stadium gates.
"When I talk you guys have something negative to say," she said before being whisked away. "When I don't talk you guys have something negative to say. I'd much rather not talk and spend time with my son."
Colander, reigning world champion Torri Edwards, who finished second in 11.02, and NCAA champion Lauryn Williams, who finished third in 11.10, claimed the three available U.S. Olympic team spots.
Though Jones is also entered in the 200 and long jump here, this race officially capped an excruciating season for Jones, who gave birth to a son with sprinter Tim Montgomery last year and did not compete.
The five-time Olympic medal winner in Sydney four years ago has been under investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for two months for her connection to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), which is at the center of a federal steroid investigation. She has denied using performance-enhancing drugs, and has not been formally charged, but the weight of the investigation seems to have taken its toll. Her best legal time in the 100 this season was an 11.04, well below her all-time best time of 10.65.
Even so, most considered Jones all but a certainty to qualify in the 100, her favorite event. In another defeat just as stunning -- if not as newsworthy -- Christian Cantwell, the world leader in the shot put this year, failed to qualify for the Olympic team in today's shot put final, finishing behind Adam Nelson, Reese Hoffa and John Godina.
Cantwell, who has had several puts over 73 feet this season and would have been the gold medal favorite in Athens, managed only 67-51/2 today in one of his worst performances of the last year.
"I think everybody's shocked," said Herman Frazier, the U.S. Olympic Committee Chef de Mission for the U.S. Olympic team. "These are tough trials. It's a tough way to pick a team. You've got to be on you're A Game. The shot put didn't go according to form and the 100 didn't go according to form. . . . This is it. You take the top three. [Jones and Cantwell] aren't on that team."
Colander's victory might have been as remarkable as Jones's and Cantwell's defeats. A native of Norfolk, Colander finished first at the 2000 Olympic trials -- in the 400. Before today, she had never won a major 100-meter race. She is a two-time U.S. champion in the 400, an accomplished competitor in the 200 and was a junior champion in the 110 hurdles. In an unusual move, she began training in the 100 last year because, she said, she always had good speed in the first quarter of her 400.
When she crossed the finish line in the final, she leaped, shouted, then bent to kiss the track. Her best time prior to this season in the 100 was 11.08.
"Athens, Athens, here I come," Colander, 27, said. "That's what was going through my mind . . . .
"I wasn't focused on Marion. When it's your opportunity -- the Olympic Games come along every four years -- you give it all you got."
Colander, who like Jones attended North Carolina, is coached by Jones's former coach, Trevor Graham. Graham has coached three of the four athletes -- Montgomery, Michelle Collins and Alvin Harrison -- facing lifetime bans from USADA for alleged drug violations.
Colander, Edwards and Williams dismissed questions from reporters about Jones's performance.
"I can't speak on Marion's behalf," Edwards said. "I don't know where she is now . . . . Everybody has ups and downs in their career. It's hard to stay consistent."
Jones struggled in all three rounds of this event. In Friday night's opening round, she finished second in her qualifying heat with a time of 11.38 seconds. Though the race was run in cold and windy conditions, the time was extremely slow for an elite sprinter of Jones's caliber. Jones, it is worth noting, ran 11.17 as a high school sophomore.
In the warm sun of Saturday afternoon's semifinals, Jones finished tied for first in her heat with Colander. Both crossed the line in 11.14 seconds. Chryste Gaines, meantime, one of six athletes at the trials facing bans for drug violations, failed to advance from her semifinal, eliminating a potential source of awkwardness for the USOC when it submits its Olympic roster on July 21.
Gaines is awaiting a hearing in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport for charges levied by the USADA, which wants to keep her and the five other athletes it has formally charged out of the Olympics.
Gaines declined to talk about the pending drug matter but said her right thigh was bothering her during Saturday's semifinal. She said she intends to compete in the 200 meters.
Jones, too, will try again in the 200 and long jump. In her only 200 race this season, Jones finished fourth. The long jump, meantime, has always been her most challenging event. Though she has the three longest jumps by any American this season, she won the bronze in that event in Sydney.
"It's the Olympic trials," said Gail Devers, who finished fourth in Saturday's 100 final. "Everybody out here is trying to run their best. . . . We have three Americans who made the team. . . . We know we are sending people over who are ready to run."
"Athens, Athens, here I come," said the 27-year-old Colander, a Norfolk native. "That's what was going through my mind." Marion Jones, who won five medals in 2000 Sydney Games, still can make the Olympic team if she qualifies in the 200 or long jump.From left, Angela Daigle, Muna Lee, Marion Jones, Lauryn Williams (3rd place), Torri Edwards (2nd place), LaTasha Colander (1st place), Angela Williams, Gail Devers at end of 100 final.Chryste Gaines, one of six athletes at the trials facing bans for drug violations, finishes second in her 100 quarterfinal heat, above, but later fails to come out of the semifinals.