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DAY 1 / Freeman Has the Light Stuff

October 02, 2000

As the Olympic flame made its way from Athens to Australia, the biggest question was who would draw the honor of lighting the big fire at Sydney. Rod Laver? Paul Hogan? Olivia Newton-John? Or would Greg Norman try to ace it with a pitching wedge and a flaming Maxfli?

The choice turned out to be a splendid one: 400-meter favorite Cathy Freeman--"Our Cathy" to most of Australia--who represented not only women, but also the Aborigines, a sticky issue in the land down under. Freeman literally rose to the occasion in a spectacular ceremony.

DAY 2 / Fire One Thorpedo! Fire Two Thorpedos!

Track and field might be the big event in the rest of the world, but swimming is the first love of Australians and the pool is where they figured to have the most success. Their chief weapon in the so-called "Wet War" against the United States was Ian Thorpe, whose age matched the size of his feet--17.

To say Thorpe didn't disappoint in his Olympic debut would be a gross understatement. He set a world record in the 400-meter freestyle, then, about an hour later, came back to anchor another world mark in the 400 freestyle relay, handing the U.S. its first Olympic loss in the event.

DAY 3 / Murmurs in the Pool and on the Pitch

When an athlete comes out of nowhere to find spectacular success, it's either a great story or a suspicious one. Both could be said of Dutch swimmer Inge de Bruijn, who set a world record in the 100-meter butterfly but was hounded about rumors of drug use.

Meanwhile, the U.S. women's soccer team, the glamour girls from the 1999 World Cup, appeared to be a step slower in a 1-1 tie against China.

One platform, no weighting: And even more on the negative front, Turkey's Naim "Pocket Hercules" Suleymanoglu, a three-time gold medalist, was gone.

DAY 4 / If You Don't Love It, You're Krayzelburg

Lenny Krayzelburg had a story just made for NBC: He escaped persecution, crossed the globe and ended up in the Valley. The only thing missing was a disease, but the network could probably add one in the editing process.

Krayzelburg, born in Ukraine, fulfilled his dream by winning the gold medal in the 100 backstroke and he would still have the 200 to come.

From the you-can't-win-them-all department, Dot Richardson made two errors in the 11th inning and Japan ended the 112-game winning streak for the U.S. softball team, the defending gold medalists.

DAY 5 / Girls Couldn't Be Saved by the Bela

This time, there was no Kerri Strug. There was no injured ankle. There was no "You can do it." And there was no gold medal, no medal at all.

The U.S. women gymnasts failed to win a team medal for the first time since 1988. How much of that was because this team wasn't as talented as the others, and how much was because Bela Karolyi wasn't allowed on the floor during competition? "He takes credit when we do good, but he blames everybody else when we do bad," Jamie Dantzscher said.

This time, Bela was blaming everybody else.

DAY 6 / How Did We Get Smart? Misty by That Much

The Americans were winning the battle of the pool with Australia, and one reason was the stunning victory of Misty Hyman in the 200-meter butterfly, upsetting defending Olympic champion Susie O'Neill.

Jenny Thompson, the ultimate team player, earned her seventh swimming gold medal--all in relays.

The U.S. softball team was on another streak, this one a three-game loser, as Australia stunned the Americans with a two-run homer in the bottom of the 13th.

Track star Marie-Jose Perec won the 10,000-mile flee-style and returned to France.

DAY 7 / It Wasn't the Pool That Was Chilly

If anyone knows exactly why swimmers Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres don't get along, they're not talking for the record. But suffice to say they are not buds.

That's what made for such delicious irony when there was a tie for the bronze medal in the 100-meter freestyle between guess who.

And if that wasn't a painful enough moment, imagine spending your entire life (well, in these cases, about 14 or 15 years) training long hours in gymnastics, waiting for that shot at Olympic gold. Then it turns out the vault in Sydney is the wrong height. Ooh, that'll leave a mark.

DAY 8 / And You Thought Shot Didn't Take Finn-esse

Track and field finally got into full swing with a major upset in the shotput. Arsi Harju of Finland didn't break 70 feet, but he broke U.S. hearts by winning the gold. Where was C.J. Hunter when we needed him most?

The swimming competition was in practically its last lap when one of the best laps occurred. Gary Hall Jr. and Anthony Ervin, who swim at the same club, had something else in common after a dead heat for gold in the 50-meter freestyle.

Synchronized diving and trampolining made their Olympic debuts. That's enough, thanks.

DAY 9 / Sprint Results: Red, White and Blur

It seemed as if everyone wanted Marion Jones to win the 100 meters, even her fellow competitors, who had a good view about 10 meters behind her as she won the first gold medal in her drive for five.

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