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Is Jones Out of These Worlds?

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

With no chance of reaching her goal of winning four gold medals, Marion Jones still had hoped to become one of four athletes in the history of track and field’s World Championships to win four medals. That too was lost Wednesday night, when she crumpled to the track on the straightaway in the 200-meter semifinals and was carried off on a stretcher.

Two hours later, USA Track & Field officials announced that Jones had experienced spasms and cramping in her lower back and was undergoing treatment and evaluation by her personal doctors.

Jones’ coach, Trevor Graham, told Reuters that he is leaning toward keeping her out of the remainder of the championships and that he is unsure about plans for the rest of the summer.

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If she does not return this season, she could lose the chance to earn more than $1 million in prize money and bonuses here and on the European Grand Prix circuit.

Jones planned to run either the 400 or 1,600 relay on the final day of competition here Sunday but had said she would not make the decision on which one until after Friday night’s 200 final.

The first athlete to enter three individual events in the same World Championships, she won the 100 on Sunday and finished third in Tuesday night’s long jump. Including qualifying rounds, she had competed each day since the meet began Saturday.

“I just figured she was beat from being on the track all the time,” said Emanuel Hudson, an agent for the HSI club that includes Maurice Greene and Inger Miller. “She’s been in the heat for five days.”

Jones, the clear favorite in the 200, appeared to be leading entering the curve but slowed noticeably coming off it, clutching the area above her left hip with about 70 meters to go and falling to the track.

Her husband, shotput champion C.J. Hunter, left his seat in the stands and went to her side. He accompanied her stretcher to the medical center at Estadio Olimpico. Jones was not taken to a hospital, agent Charlie Wells said, but returned to her hotel.

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According to eyewitnesses, Hunter punched an unidentified video cameraman while shielding Jones from photographers as they left the stadium.

The two doctors who observed her were not associated with the U.S. team, having accompanied Jones from the United States, and were unavailable for comment.

With Jones sidelined, her U.S. teammate, Miller of Pasadena and USC, becomes the 200 favorite. She had the fastest time, 22.17 seconds, of the semifinalists.

Chris Huffins, in the decathlon, and Duane Ross, in the 110-meter hurdles, won bronze medals for the United States on Wednesday. But the team’s most notable achievement was provided by Curt Clausen, whose fourth-place finish was the highest ever for an American in the 50-kilometer walk.

“I think a lot of naysayers a year or two ago would say that the other countries are kicking our butts because they get better athletes,” Clausen said.

“I don’t buy that. It’s a matter of work, and this shows it can be done.”

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