ATHENS, Greece – Marion Jones (search) made a quiet debut, drawing a smattering of applause while advancing to the long jump final. Allen Johnson (search) attracted the eyes of the entire Olympic Stadium, for all the wrong reasons.
Jones leaped 21 feet, 113/4 inches Wednesday, the seventh-best qualifying jump, then skipped her final attempt. She had already left the stadium when 18-year-old Allyson Felix (search) won a silver medal in the 200 meters — one of the events Jones won four years ago in her historic Sydney performance.
For Jones, Athens is about more than medals.
"It's a little bit about a gold, but I think to me it's a lot more about coming out here, doing my best in the midst of a hell of a year," said Jones, who is the subject of a steroid investigation, has been accused by her ex-husband of using banned drugs in Sydney and gave birth to a son 14 months ago.
"I mean, you can take that how you want it — being able to do your best in the midst of mass chaos."
There was chaos on the track when Johnson, a four-time world champion and the 1996 Olympic gold medalist, made a shocking exit from the second round of the 110-meter hurdles. He tripped over the ninth hurdle, then stumbled and fell underneath the last one — ending up face down on the track, glasses flying off his face, as competitors crossed the finish line.
Johnson said it was only the second time in his career he's fallen in a race.
"It was going great, and then I don't know. I just went down. I thought I was in control until I hit that hurdle. I got myself together, but the last one I hit and went down," Johnson said. "I'm fairly disappointed, but it happens. I'll be watching the final. There's nothing I can do."
He was the latest of several Americans who came to Athens favored for medals but will leave empty-handed — including pole vaulter Stacy Dragila, hurdler Gail Devers, decathlete Tom Pappas and shot putter John Godina.
In the 200, Jamaica's Veronica Campbell held off Felix on the final stretch. Campbell, a student at the University of Arkansas, won in 22.05 — the fastest time in the world this year. Felix finished in 22.18 and Debbie Ferguson of the Bahamas took bronze in 22.30.
Felix was happy with her finish. "I have a lot of confidence and I'm very excited about the future," she said.
Four years ago, Jones' quest for five golds ended in the long jump. This time, she made her Athens debut in the event, with little of the celebrity worship that engulfed her in Sydney.
On her first attempt, Jones licked her lips, then paused for the start of a men's race. She took two quick deep breaths, sped down the runway — and fouled by several inches. She immediately went over to the stands to talk with coach Dan Pfaff.
Jones opened her mouth wide and rolled her tongue around her mouth before her second jump, then took four quick breaths. She propelled herself down the runway and leaped 13/4 inches past the automatic qualifying distance of 21-10, advancing to Friday's final.
At the 2000 Sydney Games, Jones already had won gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters when she got a bronze in the long jump. She went on to win two more medals in relays — one gold, one bronze.
But at the U.S. trials this summer, she failed to qualify in the 100 and dropped out of the 200, citing fatigue. So her only events here will be the long jump and the 400-meter relay, which begins Thursday.
Those are not the only differences from the last Olympics.
Jones was the darling of Sydney, her every move chronicled as she aimed for five golds. Even her defense of then-husband C.J. Hunter on drug charges won her praise as a supportive spouse.
Now she's under investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and has been accused by the now-divorced Hunter of using banned drugs before, during and after the Sydney Games.
"I'm looking forward to jumping on Friday and, you know what, getting on the next plane Saturday and heading home to my little boy, who I've been away from for over three weeks," Jones said. "So things are a lot different than four years ago."
The biggest thrill of the night for Greek fans came when countrywoman Fani Halkia won the 400-meter hurdles in 52.82 seconds, sending the sold-out Olympic Stadium into spasms of joy and flag waving. Romania's Ionela Tirlea-Manolache won silver and Tetiana Tereshchuk-Antipova of Ukraine took bronze.
Australian Jana Pittman, the world champion, finished fifth two weeks after undergoing knee surgery. Sheena Johnson was fourth and her U.S. teammate, Brenda Taylor, was seventh.
Near the start of the long jump runway, awaiting her second attempt, Jones sat impassively as Halkia pranced by on her victory lap.
In other events Wednesday, Hicham El Guerrouj qualified easily for the final of the 5,000 one night after his dramatic and emotional victory in the 1,500. Winning that preliminary heat was 10,000 champion Kenenisa Bekele, setting up a Saturday night duel in the final between two men trying to complete a rare Olympic distance double.
Only four men have won the 5,000 and 10,000 at one Olympics, as Bekele is attempting. And a 1,500-5,000 sweep would be even more unusual — El Guerrouj would be only the second man to accomplish that. Paavo Nurmi did it in 1924.