NEW YORK: American Marion Jones made a triumphant return to the track on Friday as she won the 60m sprint at the indoor Millrose Games in a time of 7.21 seconds.
The triple Olympic champion, who had not raced for 18 months while she took a break to have a baby, overcame a wretched start at the Madison Square Garden event but found her stride after 30 metres to edge a strong field.
Though Jones was the story of the night, Allen Johnson was selected as the meet's Most Outstanding Performer after setting a new Millrose record in the 60m hurdles. Johnson won in 7.43, breaking Terrence Trammell's mark of 7.47 set in 2001.
“I was nervous and it showed in my start,” Jones told reporters.
“I looked like a woman who had been on pregnancy leave.
“After 30 metres I knew I had to do something. I told myself I should be dominating and fortunately after 40 metres it clicked.
“I'm not excited about the time, but considering all the hoopla surrounding my 'comeback' and the pressure I felt, this was a good way to start 2004.”
Angela Daigle finished second in 7.24 seconds and Inger Miller third in 7.27 seconds.
While the 28-year-old was not at her best, she looked in good shape and insisted the outing – only her second indoor race as a professional – had reminded her of what she had missed during 2003.
“When I walked into the arena, I got the buzz again,” she said.
“It brought a smile to my face and I knew this is where I belong.
“I have work to do, but I know there are lots more for me to do in the sport.”
Jones, who won five medals in all at the Sydney Olympics four years ago – three gold and two bronze – said this week she wants to go for five golds at this year's Athens Olympics.
She will hope to dominate the 100m, 200m, long jump and the 4x100m relay and 4x400m relay.
Aside from Johnson, Gail Devers also set a meet record in the 60m hurdles, finishing in 7.76. The 37-year-old Devers broke the record she set last year in 7.78.
Johnson, who won gold in the hurdles at the 1996 Olympics, won his first meet of the year. But he deferred to Devers when asked about his record.
In other events, Jamaican national champion Asafa Powell won the 60 in 6.56. Hudson de Souza of Brazil won the prestigious Wanamaker mile in 4:02.93. Tisha Waller won the high jump with a leap of 6 feet, 3½ inches for her eighth Millrose Games victory.
Jones' boyfriend American Tim Montgomery, the 100m world record-holder, on Friday declared himself ready to defy Briton Jason Gardener on his home soil, in the 60m at the indoor athletics meeting in Birmingham on February 20.
“It's official. I'm going to the Birmingham meet with Jason Gardener,” Montgomery said at the Millrose Games, where he watched Jones make a successful return to the track. “I'm going on his turf to beat him.”
Gardener has the best 60m time of the season - 6.50sec set on January 31 at Stuttgart.
“I'm looking forward to the race, the training is going very well,” added Montgomery, who after a 2003 season marked by disappointment and injury is now training with Dan Pfaff, as is Jones.
While he plans one or two indoor appearances in this Olympic year, Montgomery confirmed that he doesn't plan to compete at the world indoor championships in Budapest in March.– Agencies