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Olympic track looking very American

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Dick Pound, the vice-president on the International Olympic Committee, says these Games at the halfway point are on their way to being "magic ... when absolutely everything went right and everyone had a wonderful time."

The Americans are in no position to disagree. It was a weekend in which a strong United States contingent lived up to its own high expectations. And when there were surprises, they were more of the pleasant than the unpleasant kind.

So far, the US has accumulated 52 medals, 21 gold. The closest team to those totals was China, with 18 golds and 44 medals in all. Australia followed with 40 medals, 10 of them gold.

In the high-profile track-and-field events, the US superstars finally had the world stage. It was cool and breezy here in the $372.6 million Olympic Stadium, conditions not conducive to record setting but, as it turned out, very conducive to very cool performances by America's best female and male sprinters.

Marion Jones easily cruised to victory in the 100 meters in her season best of 10.75 seconds, far off Florence Griffith Joyner's 10.49 world mark. But that was no downer for Jones, who said afterward, "I'm only 24, and this has been my dream for 19 years of my life."

This was the first step in a difficult journey Jones has planned for herself that, if successful, will end in her having five gold medals draped around her neck. She'll compete in the 200, run on two relays, and try to win the long jump.

Maurice Greene, with a time of 9.87 seconds, didn't seriously challenge his own world mark of 9.79 which he set in Athens last year. But the record wasn't the point: Winning was. And he was his usual, supremely confident self, seemingly turning on just enough speed at the end to triumph over his training buddy, Trinidad's Ato Boldon.

As the crowd erupted, Greene looked as if he could increase his speed any time he wanted. Later, he wasn't sure what happened in the race. "You work for years," he says, "for something that lasts nine seconds."


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