Jones assesses her form - Kansas Relays, Day One
Saturday 23 April 2005
Lawrence, Kansas, USA - Yesterday Marion Jones sat down for her first interview with the press since the Athens Olympic Games and, perhaps more to the point, since her startling 400 metres last Sunday (17 April) at the Mt. SAC Relays.

Jones, in her traditional spring opener at Mt. SAC, finished sixth and last in 55.03, the slowest time she has run since she was a 13-year-old in 1989.

Was she disheartened? Not in the least. Always the positive thinker, Jones was her usual upbeat self.

“It was my first meet back,” she said, smiling broadly, “and the quarter was a race I didn’t run last year. It just didn’t go well for me. I had a little mental breakdown.”

But, she added, "It was just one of those things. I’m not concerned physically that I’m not ready to run. I’m not going to spend much time on it. It didn’t go well, but if I was that concerned I wouldn’t come here or go run next weekend.

“I’m so pleased with the way things are going with my training and my new coach (Steve Riddick, a 1976 U.S. Olympic gold medallist in the 4x100 relay). I think what I need now is just competition. I just want to get back into the race feel. You’re going to see me quite often over the next several weeks. I will be quite busy,” she said, although declining to answer a question about specifics.

Jones and Tim Montgomery have set up temporary quarters near Norfolk, Virginia, to train with Riddick, who was for many years the athletics coach at Norfolk State University.

This year, she said, she will concentrate on the 100 and 200 metres, "My immediate focus is to be the fastest woman in the world. I still have the passion for the Long Jump that hasn’t been quenched. I have yet to win an Olympic or World Championship gold medal in the Long Jump, so I haven’t given up on that event. But I’m using this year to get refocused on my life and my career. I needed to downsize my career and focus on sprints. When I am back to where I want to be, I can expand.”

“I’m confident that my training over the past five months is going to pay off,” she said. “This might be the year for us to start bringing down the times. I think times will go down to the low 10.8s and maybe an occasional 10.7, and hopefully I’ll be leading the pack.”

New world record breaker is back in action

Away from the interview room, perhaps the only events of international interest in Friday’s programme (22 April) were victories in two individual events by Lithuanian Austra Skujyte, the 2004 Olympic Heptathlon silver medallist. Skujyte, who set a World Decathlon record of 8336 points** earlier this month (14/15 April), long jumped 6.31m (no wind indication) and put the Shot 15.69m.

James Dunaway for the IAAF

**awaiting ratification