Monday, September 25|
Despite pressure, Freeman comes through
SYDNEY, Australia -- Cathy Freeman carried the hopes of a
nation and the dreams of a downtrodden people as she raced around
the track. When she was done, she carried a flag -- half Australian,
half aboriginal -- in a joyous victory lap.
Fifteen minutes later, Michael Johnson made Olympic history by
becoming the first man to successfully defend a 400-meter title.
Alvin Harrison won the silver medal to give the United States a 1-2
On the busiest night of track and field at the Sydney Games,
American Stacy Dragila won the inaugural women's pole vault,
Gabriela Szabo of Romania set an Olympic record in the women's
5,000 meters and Maria Mutola gave Mozambique its first Olympic
gold medal by winning the women's 800.
In men's events, Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia successfully
defended his 10,000-meter title, Britain's Jonathan Edwards won the
triple jump, Anier Garcia of Cuba won the 110-meter hurdles and
Lithuania's Virgilijus Alekna won the discus.
Freeman, the first Aborigine to win an individual Olympic gold
medal, captured the women's 400-meter gold medal in 49.11 seconds.
Lorraine Graham of Jamaica won silver in 49.58 and Katharine Merry
of Britain was the bronze medalist.
Freeman, wearing a full bodysuit, was even with Graham with
about 20 meters to go, but pulled away at the end. A few strides
past the finish line, she closed her eyes and let out several long
Then Freeman sat down on the track and pulled off her shoes. She
looked drained with the excitement of victory and the relief of
expectations fulfilled. She made her victory lap barefoot.
"It was a relief. I was totally overwhelmed by the crowd. I
could feel the crowd all over me," she said. "All the emotion and
happiness and joy in every pore of my body. I had to sit down and
make myself get comfortable and feel normal."
Freeman opened these games by kindling the cauldron atop Olympic
Stadium. And she provided the emotional peak of the games Monday
for Australians, who filled the stadium -- the attendance was
112,524 -- with waves of pulsating noise as she ran.
"Running is like breathing. To me it was fun. I had a great
time," she said. "Winning the gold is more precious than lighting
the cauldron. When I lit the cauldron I was relieved I didn't fall
in the water."
Freeman has not lost at 400 meters in three years. She now has
an Olympic title to go with her two world championships. She's a
national hero to Australians, and much more than that to her fellow
Aborigines, Australia's original inhabitants.
By carrying the red, yellow and black aboriginal flag around the
track, Freeman fulfilled a wish of Aborigines from inner-city
Sydney to the forbidding bush of central Australia.
"It is a great victory, a victory that she deserves," said
International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch.
"We are all extremely happy that this young aboriginal woman has
won for all of Australia."
The crowd chanted "Ca-thy! Ca-thy!" as Freeman accepted her
gold medal -- Australia's 100th -- and joined her in singing the
national anthem. Freeman then walked to the stands and handed a
bouquet of flowers to her mother.
"The pressure was a lot in front of my home crowd," she said.
"This has been a dream since I was a little girl and it's why I'm
In the 100-meter hurdles, Garcia won in 13.00 seconds and
stripped off his shirt in triumph. Terrence Trammell took silver in
13.16 and his U.S. teammate, Mark Crear, won the bronze medal.
Defending champion Allen Johnson, who hit each of the 10
hurdles, was fourth in 13.23 -- a hundredth of a second behind
Crear, the 1996 silver medalist. World champion Colin Jackson was
Alekna won the discus gold medal with a throw of 69.30 meters
(227 feet, 4 inches). The 1996 Olympic champion, Lars Riedel of
Germany, won the silver and Frantz Kruger of South Africa took the
Dragila's winning clearance in the pole vault was 15 feet, 1
inch (4.60 meters). She failed at three attempts to break her own
world record. Tatiana Grigorieva of Australia won the silver and
Vala Flofadottir of Iceland the bronze.
Szabo, the 1996 silver medalist, won the 5,000 in 14 minutes,
40.79 seconds -- smashing the Olympic record by more than 19
seconds. Sonia O'Sullivan of Ireland won the silver and Gete Wami
of Ethiopia the bronze.
Mutola, the 1996 bronze medalist, came from behind on the final
stretch to win the women's 800 in 1:56.15 -- playfully sticking her
tongue out after crossing the finish line. Stephanie Graf of
Austria was second and Kelly Holmes of Britain won bronze.
Edwards, a silver medalist four years ago, had a winning leap of
58-1 (17.71 meters) in the triple jump. Yoel Garcia of Cuba took
the silver and Denis Kapustin of Russia got the bronze.
Gebrselassie, who has not lost at 10,000 meters since 1993,
needed a dramatic kick on the closing straight to catch Kenya's
Paul Tergat at the finish line. Gebrselassie won in 27:18.20 -- nine
hundredths of a second faster than Tergat. Assefa Mezgebu of
Ethiopia took the bronze.
|Australia's Cathy Freeman, center, crosses the finish line to win the 400 meters to the roar of the Australian crowd of 110,000.|
Track and field results
Johnson loves making history, and he made some more
IAAF confirms Hunter tested positive for steroids
IOC chief accuses U.S. track of drug cover-up
Sotomayor overcomes, wins silver in high jump
Johnson doesn't win heat, but still makes 400 final
Jones, Greene easily capture 100-meter gold medals
Zelezny nails his third consecutive javelin title
Jones, Greene start runs toward finish line