Past midnight on Sunday, Marion Jones bounded into her hotel
lobby from the warm Sevillian night, flush with her second
100-meter world championship. A friend rose from a chair to
congratulate her, but before they could embrace, Jones pulled
back, dropped her backpack to the tiled floor and lit the room
with a glittering smile. "Did you see C.J.? Did you see him?"
she fairly squealed. Her hands were outstretched as if she held
In the world of track and field, Jones's success in sprinting is
a given. Her 100 win through the blistering, still air of
Seville's Estadio Olimpico wasn't merely expected; it was
presumed. The same can be said for the triumph of Maurice
Greene, who won his second 100-meter world title 15 minutes
after Jones got her number 2 and narrowly missed breaking his
own world record. But C.J. Hunter, Jones's husband since last
Oct. 3, isn't a given in his event. It was his final-throw,
personal-best, epiphany-in-the-circle victory in last Saturday
night's shot put that set the emotional stage for the seventh
world track and field championships.
When Hunter stepped into the ring for his sixth and final throw,
he was in second place, 13 inches behind Oliver-Sven Buder of
Germany. Hunter spun twice and heaved the 16-pound metal ball.
Even before it landed, he screamed. When his throw finally fell
to earth just short of the 22-meter line, the 330-pound,
30-year-old Hunter launched into an operatic celebration. He
pumped his fists four times, windmilled his prodigious arms
thrice and then stood in the circle and howled, every inch a
conquering warrior. The official distance was 71'6", 15 inches
farther than he had ever thrown. When Aleksandr Bagach of
Ukraine and Buder both failed to surpass Hunter's throw, he had
his first major international title. After two years of
rebuilding and reflected glory, he'd emerged with a tangible
Rewind to April 1998. Hunter is traipsing glumly across the
infield after throwing dismally at the Mount San Antonio College
Relays. The previous spring Hunter had begun working with coach
Brian Blutreich. Blutreich had torn Hunter's technique to its
roots. Hunter, who had made the '96 Olympic team and been the
bronze medalist at the '97 world championships, was suddenly a
rookie again, and he wasn't having fun. Asked that afternoon in
California how he had thrown, Hunter said, "Terrible." Then he
paused. "It's a learning process. I know I have talent. I'm
going to get this thing figured out, and when I do, people are
going to pay."
August 29, 1999
Hunter then walked to the finish line area, watched Jones win
the 400 meters, sat next to her as she was copiously interviewed
and escorted her off the premises. It was a role he would play
often in the ensuing year. But as Jones, 23, developed into one
of the most transcendent performers in the world and Hunter
fought to find his form, he was often perceived more as Jones's
bodyguard than as a world-class performer. He was dangerously
close to becoming Mr. Marion Jones.
Hunter's 1998 season best was a disheartening 68'4 1/2".
However, in the winter that followed, his quickness across the
circle began to mesh with Blutreich's teaching. On April 18,
1999, back at the Mt. SAC meet, Hunter threw 70 feet for only
the second time in his life. He also went over 70 in May and
July, and reached Seville with three of the six longest throws
in the world this year. His winning put in the finals was both a
breakthrough and a confirmation of the effort--"Hard-ass work,"
Hunter called it--that had preceded it. Every day that Jones
would go to train at North Carolina State in Raleigh, Hunter
would head to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill,
and they would meet back at their home in Apex, exhausted. "He
deserves this," said Jones on Sunday night. "I'm so proud of him."
She can be proud of herself, too. She came to Seville to win
four gold medals, a goal that was derailed on Monday when she
finished third in the long jump with a leap of 22'5". Jones
viewed the worlds as a high-stakes trial run for her five-gold
attempt at the Sydney Olympics. Yet since she returned to track
and field in the spring of 1997 after two seasons as a star
point guard for North Carolina, she has had another goal. "I
want to run faster than any woman has ever run," Jones said last
summer. That would mean breaking the late Florence Griffith
Joyner's 11-year-old record of 10.49 seconds, which has long
been suspect because the wind gauge failed to register an
obvious tailwind. However, Jones also said that it would be
nearly as significant to run consistently in the 10.60s
(Flo-Jo's fastest noncontroversial time was 10.61) and to drag
other women with her. "If we get lots of women running
consistently in the 10.7s and 10.6s, that would be almost as big
as breaking 10.49," Jones said.
Jones won last Sunday's final in 10.70, drilling her start and
pulling away. She has broken 10.80 12 times, eight more times
than any other woman. In the final she succeeded in bringing the
best out in her opponents: For the first time ever in a single
race, six women runners broke 11 seconds.
Greene, too, elevated his competition, particularly Bruny Surin
of Canada. In the 100 final, Greene stumbled out of the blocks
and trailed Surin for more than 50 meters before overhauling him
at the tape. Surin finished in a personal-best 9.84 seconds.
Greene crossed the line in 9.80, just off the record of 9.79 he
set in Athens on June 16. Two years after his breakout world 100
title, also in Athens, Greene showed in Seville that he has lost
none of his spirit--"He woke me up at seven o'clock this morning
and told me he was ready to run now," said teammate Larry Wade
after the 100 final--and that he has added maturity to match his
status as the fastest man in history. In last Saturday's
quarterfinal, in which a younger Greene might have scorched a
fast time for no reason, he moved his starting blocks back
several inches to delay his start and keep his time a relatively
slow (by his standards) 9.91, saving his best for Sunday. In the
final he didn't panic when Surin moved in front. "Very few
sprinters in the world stay calm in that position," said
Greene's training partner, two-time Olympic medalist Ato Boldon,
who is injured and didn't run. "I know my top end," said Greene
late on Sunday night. "I knew I was fine."
More than fine. Nearly perfect in the face of high expectations
and heavily favored to add the 200 and 4 X 100 relay in his
quest for three golds in Seville. "No problem," said Greene's
manager, Emanuel Hudson. "Maurice was born ready for greatness.
He's just waiting for everybody else to catch up."
Nobody catches up. That we know.