Saturday, July 10, 2004

Pole vault starts off meet with controversy

Olympic Track and Field Trials

By Rob Gloster
The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Jeff Hartwig is the American record-holder in the men's pole vault and a four-time national champion. But bad things seem to happen to Hartwig when the Olympics approach.

Hartwig missed out on a chance for this summer's Athens Games when he failed to clear any of his attempts Friday in the preliminary round at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. He also failed to make it out of the qualifying round at the Olympic Trials in 2000.

There was a bit of controversy this time.

After missing his first two attempts at 18 feet, one-half inch, Hartwig stopped on the runway on his third attempt because of strong winds. While returning for another attempt, he asked an official how much time he had left and was told he had 12 seconds. Competitors at that stage of the competition are allowed 1 minute to attempt a jump.

But before he could begin another attempt, officials told him he had run out of time. He protested and, about 20 minutes later, won the right to jump again. He missed, and complained that the rules say he should have been allowed another jump immediately after he filed the protest.

"I said after 2000 I'll never let myself be that disappointed again," said Hartwig, who finished 11th at the 1996 Olympics. "This is par for the course for me at these kinds of meets."

Also failing to qualify for Sunday's final was Lawrence Johnson, the reigning Olympic silver medalist. Reaching the final were Toby Stevenson, who has the best vault in the world this year, and defending Olympic champion Nick Hysong.

Later in the evening, three-time Olympic champion Marion Jones was to begin her bid for the U.S. team for the Athens Games. Jones, who remains under investigation by anti-doping authorities, was to compete in the quarterfinals of the 100 meters.

Also entered in the 100 was Chryste Gaines, who has been charged with steroid use by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and faces a lifetime ban if found guilty.

The first round of the 100, set for Friday afternoon, was canceled because not enough competitors had met the qualifying standard.

Tim Montgomery, world record-holder in the 100 and Jones' boyfriend, is set to run starting today.

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