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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | NOTES

French Star Perec: 'I Cracked'

September 29, 2000|From Staff and Wire Reports

French track star Marie-Jose Perec, who fled Sydney before her planned Olympic 400-meter showdown with Cathy Freeman, said fear overwhelmed her dream of obtaining a third Olympic gold medal and she "cracked."

"I missed the most important rendezvous I ever had with myself," she was quoted Thursday as saying by the French sports daily L'Equipe. "I cracked when I shouldn't have cracked. I was defeated."

Perec made the remarks in a lengthy interview with a L'Equipe reporter in Sydney, in a telephone conversation she initiated from her apartment in Paris, where she has locked herself up since her return.

"I have so much sadness inside me," the paper quoted Perec as saying. The track star sobbed at several points in the phone call.

"I cracked. That's all. I could only think of one thing: Go, far away. Fast."

She said she did not fear Freeman, the Australian whose duel with Perec had been expected to be a high point of the Olympics.

"Freeman didn't frighten me, and she still doesn't frighten me today," Perec was quoted as saying. She added that she was in top form and thought she could have run the race in less than 49 seconds.

Freeman won in 49.11.

*

Freeman's gold-medal run in the Olympics will not pressure the federal government to apologize to the "stolen generation" of Aborigines, a cabinet minister said Thursday.

Freeman, whose grandmother was removed from her family as a child, has criticized the government's refusal to say it's sorry.

Asked whether Freeman's heightened Olympic profile, including a win in the women's 400 meters, would increase pressure on the government, Reconciliation Minister Philip Ruddock told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio: "I don't think it changes the issues at all.

"But the point I would make is that Cathy is a great example to other young people about what can be done, what can be achieved, and is an outstanding role model for all Australians, but particularly for indigenous Australians."

From 1910 until the 1970s, authorities placed about 100,000 Aboriginal children in the care of white families. State and federal law declared it was humane to save children of a doomed race.

*

Russ Granik, the NBA executive who serves as president of USA Basketball, called Kobe Bryant's decision not to play in the Olympics one of his biggest disappointments since NBA players began playing.

"In my view, there's only three players that have ever said no," Granik said Thursday. "One was Michael [Jordan] in '96, after he'd played twice. Shaq [O'Neal] this time, after he'd played once in the World Championships and once in the Olympics.

"If there was one that concerned me, it was Kobe Bryant, because he hadn't played. Maybe he did get a late invitation, and that made it more difficult for him."

Bryant, whose season stretched into the summer because of the Lakers' title run, declined partly because of plans to be married. Bryant has yet to set a date for his wedding.

"I'm not saying anybody holds that against him. I'm saying that everyone else who's ever been asked has said yes," Granik said. "And sometimes it's yes, and you hear them jumping up and down in the background."

Bryant, 22, figures to have another opportunity.

*

The woman running a race against the clock to stage the 2004 Olympics in Athens dismissed talk that the city could lose the Games and said Athens would lay on a sporting show to rival Sydney's success.

"We have four hard years of preparations ahead. But what we promise, we deliver," Gianna Angelopoulous, president of the Athens Organizing Committee, told Reuters. "We promise that Athens will be good for the Games, good for the athletes, good for the media."

She was responding to persistent reports in the Australian media that the International Olympic Committee could strip Athens of the 2004 Games if it is not satisfied by November that ATHOC can pull off its Olympic challenge.

According to the reports, Sydney, Los Angeles and Seoul, South Korea, are all in the running to be asked to step in if Athens is unable to deliver.

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