The Greeks may have invented the Olympics, but when this year’s summer games take place in Athens, Greece (August 13–29), we’ll be paying particularly close attention to the sisters. What is it about these global sports events that every four years turns even those of us who ordinarily pass on the Super Bowl into avid sports fans?

The discipline, determination and amazing athleticism of the would-be gold medalists have much to do with it. But we’re also awed by what well-trained women and men of African descent can do when allowed to strut their stuff on a level playing field. We’ve compiled our guide to some of the returning Olympic winners. Marion Jones is among we’ll be watching during the 2004 Games, as well as a look back at the great moments in Olympics past.

Marion Jones

Who she is: When track-and-field star Marion Jones headed home from the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia, she brought with her the most medals ever won by a female athlete: three golds in the 100 meters, 200m and 4x400m relay, as well as a pair of bronzes in the long jump and 4x100m relay. Once again, all eyes will be on Jones, now 28, as she seeks to repeat her previous victories and retain her unofficial title of The Fastest Woman in the World.

The moment that started it all: After returning home from a parade honoring the athletes in the 1984 Olympics, 8-year-old Jones wrote on a blackboard in her Los Angeles bedroom: I will be an Olympic champion in 1992. “When I watched the Games on TV, I saw this glimmer in the eyes of the athletes who won that I didn’t see in the eyes of those who came in second or third,” she says. “That’s when I knew I had to be number one.”

Battling rumors: Jones’s stunning achievements have come under scrutiny. She testified in a federal case concerning the use of performance-enhancing drugs. She has been tested numerous times and has never shown up positive. “As I have said before, I’m drug-free,” she says.

Biggest life change: Becoming a mom. In June 2003 Jones gave birth to her first child, son Timothy “Monty” Montgomery, Jr., whose dad, Tim Montgomery, holds the world record in the 100m. “It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, far beyond any gold medal and world record,” she says. “It’s allowed me to prioritize my life and put family first. Before, I thought about track 24 hours a day, every day. Now that I’m a mom, I realize you need balance in your life, other things you enjoy doing to get your mind off your career.”

Jones met Montgomery in 1997 while they were training with the same coach in Raleigh, North Carolina. Although still together, the couple have no immediate plans to sprint down the aisle.