World's Fastest Kid?
updated 09/01/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 09/01/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Even if the whole thing happened so quickly that Jones's boyfriend Tim Montgomery—the world's fastest man, with his own 100-meter record—missed his son's birth. "We went to Lamaze classes, but I didn't even get to use it," says Montgomery, 28, who was competing in a track meet in Scotland and scrambled to arrive at the hospital in Raleigh, N.C., 18 hours later. On a news report the next day, "the anchor said, 'This [baby] has a lot of pressure on him,'" recalls Jones, 27. "I clicked off the TV and told Monty, 'You have no pressure on you. You enjoy your life.'"
It's advice Jones herself has been heeding lately. Three years after her star-making Olympic debut at the Sydney games—she took-home five medals, including three golds—Jones is finally taking a deep breath. "When you're younger, you have so much going on, you lose track of what's really important," she says. Now, "as soon as the clock hits a certain time, I'm ready to get home to see my family."
Granted, that family took a little while to push off from the starting block. Jones was in the middle of a three-year marriage to shot-putter C.J. Hunter, 34, when she met Montgomery in '99. While her star was on the rise, Hunter's was tarnished after he tested positive for steroids in 2000. The following year they separated. "We were going in different directions," Jones says of their split. "It had nothing to do with [the scandal]—I've always believed he was innocent. Our views were just getting drastically different."
Meanwhile, her friendship with Montgomery was beginning to blossom. Their paths first crossed when both sprinters were training in Raleigh. At a 2001 meet in Oslo, Montgomery lost his luggage and borrowed Jones's shoes—a half-size smaller than he usually wears. "I ran the second-best time I've ever had," he recalls. "I thanked her and told her I owed her dinner."
By July of last year their romance was on the fast track—along with their playful rivalry. "We're competitive when we play air hockey, go bass fishing, play pool," says Montgomery. "That keeps the edge going."
Clearly, Jones has not lost her own edge to motherhood. Just two weeks after Monty's birth she had shed all 25 lbs. of her pregnancy weight. Even while pregnant, "I trained pretty intensely," she says. Despite Montgomery's absence at the birth, Jones had the support of her mom, Marion Toler, 66. (She and Jones's father, George, who died last year, divorced when Jones was young.)
For his part, Montgomery—who has a 2-year-old daughter, Tymiah, from a previous relationship—is adjusting to life with a newborn. When Monty was 14 days old, Dad handled night duty. Once. "I was up every 20 minutes!" he says. Raised in Gaffney, S.C., by Marjorie, 52, and Eddie, 57, both of whom work at a local dairy, Montgomery, like Jones, started running as a teen. They both have been going full-speed ever since—though neither is racing to get to the altar. Says Montgomery: "We're taking our time."
Likewise, neither parent is rushing to buy a pair of tiny track shoes. "We want Monty to try everything to make his own path in the world," says Jones, who is aiming for victory at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, this time with Monty cheering her on. "That's going to be the greatest satisfaction," she says, "when I'm standing on the podium, knowing that I prioritized my life."
Michaele Ballard in Morrisville, N.C.