The Olympics: Thursday

French track star sprints for the exit in Sydney.

By Alicia Montgomery
September 21, 2000 10:50PM (UTC)
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Marie-Jose Perec could have run away with the gold in the women's 400-meter race. Instead, she just ran away. Reuters reports that the French track star fled the country, claiming that someone had threatened her at her hotel. But aside from Perec's assertion, there's no proof that such an encounter took place. "We are very much looking forward to hearing whatever explanation Marie-Jose Perec can give us," said hotel spokesman Peter Holt. "We have no evidence whatsoever of any incident that we can prove via our security analysis." After their speedy departure from Sydney, Perec and her boyfriend ran into legal trouble in Singapore, where they allegedly confronted a nosy cameraman. With Perec out of the race, Australian Cathy Freeman, who lighted the Olympic flame, is now considered a favorite in the 400-meter race.

The comeback kid
After slipping to silver in the Atlanta Games, Russia's Alexei Nemov finally got the gold in the men's all-around gymnastics competition. There were few who believed Nemov was a serious contender for the Olympic victory as recently as May, and Nemov kept everyone in suspense by letting China's Yang Wei stay close throughout the event. Nemov clinched the gold with a 9.775 on the parallel bars, his last apparatus.


All Romania, all the time
The Russians will have to settle for having just one all-around gymnastics medal in Sydney. ABC News reports that the Romanians pulled off a triple play in women's gymnastics, with Andreea Raducan, Simona Amanar and Maria Olaru placing one, two and three. Raducan is the first Romanian Olympic champion in women's gymnastics since the legendary Nadia Comaneci won in 1976. Though the Romanian victory was decisive, the competition was not without controversy. An incorrect vault height threw many contenders off their game, particularly medal favorite Svetlana Khorkina. After suffering a bad landing on a vault, earning a score of 9.343 in the event, she shook off her coach's attempt to comfort her and never regained her concentration. Khorkina then slipped on the uneven bars during her routine, finishing the competition in 11th place.

Possible sweep turns to dust
Women's tennis was supposed to be one of the Americans' surest events coming into the Olympics, but the United States shouldn't expect to sweep the medals in that event after all. The Washington Post reports that tennis star Lindsay Davenport had to quit the competition because of a foot injury, leaving U.S. Open champ Venus Williams and veteran Monica Seles to carry the flag. "It's been a really tough year, and to pull out of a tournament you know will probably be the highlight of your career, it's just devastating," said Davenport. "I've had to pull out of a lot of tournaments before, but obviously nothing quite compares to this one." Davenport's absence should smooth the way for Williams to win it all and extend her current 28-match winning streak. But there can't be an all-American final. If they continue to win, Seles and Williams will meet in the semifinal round.

Dream Team gets victory and boos
Sometimes winning isn't enough. Just ask the latest incarnation of the U.S. men's basketball "Dream Team." According to the Associated Press, the Americans traveled a rocky road to their 85-76 victory over Lithuania. To some team members, however, a win is a win. "We didn't play with energy. We didn't play like we were having a good time," Alonzo Mourning said. "But we knew we were going to win that game no matter what the margin was." The margin was close. At one point in the second half, the Lithuanians managed to earn a one-point lead, the first time any Olympic squad led a U.S. "Dream Team" after halftime. The Americans did regain the lead, but their opponents were never really out of it. With a little more than a minute left in the game, Lithuanian center Eurelijus Zukauskas could have brought his team to within three from the foul line, but missed both of his shots instead. The Americans sealed their victory after that, but they couldn't escape the wrath of the crowd, which booed them at game's end.

Alicia Montgomery

Alicia Montgomery is an associate editor in Salon's Washington bureau.

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