The Olympics: Friday

Bad-boy swimmer Gary Hall Jr. shares the gold, Marion Jones takes her first steps and American softballers beat voodoo.



Alicia Montgomery
September 22, 2000 7:50PM (UTC)

The triumph of Gary Hall Jr. in the 50-meter freestyle swimming competition offers an important lesson to our nation's youth: Do drugs, be arrogant and behave badly, and you can still be a hero as long as you win. The Associated Press reports that Hall shared the gold with fellow American Anthony Ervin by finishing the water sprint in 21.98 seconds. Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband won the bronze.

For those unfamiliar with Hall's exploits on dry land, he was suspended in 1998 for testing positive for marijuana, and more recently he failed a public relations test by promising to "smash the Australians like guitars" in the 4-by-100-meter relay. But a recent diabetes diagnosis has given his Olympic story a touch of the triumph-over-adversity angle, and he reminded viewers of that after his win. "There's a million reasons why I shouldn't have gotten it tonight, like diabetes, like all the turmoil I've been through," Hall said. "To come out on top is such a thrill."

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Tracking Mrs. Jones
Another American took the first steps of what she hopes will be a thrilling run at the Olympics. Runner and pitchwoman Marion Jones took to the track in a black cat suit and won her heat in the 100 meters. She has pledged to win five gold medals in Sydney. Though many have called Jones arrogant for her goal, sprinter Maurice Greene is a top contender for the gold medal in conceit. Olympics.com reports that Greene bet his training partners that he could run at his slowest speed and still win his heat in the 100-meter race. He did it, finishing in 10.30 seconds, fast enough to earn a spot in the semifinal.

Torch star gets a leg up
Though Jones gets more press stateside, Aussie runner Cathy Freeman is the hometown favorite in Sydney. The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reports that the crowd roared its approval as she was introduced before the 400-meter race. Freeman easily qualified for the semifinal and is expected to win the gold in the event. Her rival, French runner Marie-Jose Perec, mysteriously fled Sydney the day before the track competition began.

Americans break "voodoo" curse
The U.S. women's softball team started its own comeback story with a victory over New Zealand, according to the Washington Post. The Americans had lost three tough games in a row at the Olympics, all in extra innings. As preparation for the New Zealand game, the U.S. team jumped into showers fully clothed, chanting and singing to drive away the bad spirits they blamed for their losing streak. Apparently it worked. "The voodoo is gone," said team member Lisa Fernandez. "We're ready to rock 'n' roll."

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That's a sport?
Russian Irina Karavaeva won the gold in the first gold medal awarded in a trampoline event. Though this is the first Olympic outing for trampoline, the sport has been recognized in other venues for decades; the first competitions were held in 1960. Trampoline veterans disagree with those who scoff at its inclusion in the Olympics. "It's a viable sport with any other sport," said Judy Wills Cline, the first world champion. "This is much, much harder than it looks. They don't know us if they criticize us. Just like a lot of people criticize table tennis and synchronized swimming." Trampoline may someday reach the heights of respect now enjoyed by water ballet and Ping-Pong.

So, so sad
For those who prefer the agony of defeat to the thrill of victory, Reuters served up a few sob stories on Friday. Defending 100-meter track champion Donovan Bailey finished dead last in his second-round heat. Bailey has been suffering from a viral infection. To demonstrate just how far he has fallen: Bailey set a then world record in the Atlanta Games at 9.84 seconds. Friday, his time was 11.36 seconds. Another former Olympic champ, high jumper Charles Austin, also lost the chance to repeat when he couldn't go higher than 2.20 meters in the qualifying round of his event. He won the gold medal in 1996 with a 2.39-meter jump.

Running into the net
Away from the track, the American men's tennis team sucked even more than expected. Andre Agassi has been sidelined by the cancer diagnoses of his mother and sister, and Pete Sampras -- supposedly the nice one -- apparently can't be bothered with the prize-money-free Olympics. After all, he already has an endorsement deal with Nike. Consequently, the American team had to go all the way over the hill and to the bottom of the barrel to scrape together a squad. Has-beens Todd Martin and Michael Chang lost in straight sets, and team member Vince Spadea (ranked 157th in the world) got trounced by Patrick Rafter.

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Medal tally

1. United States
-- 16 gold, 10 silver, 14 bronze, 40 total

2. China
-- 14 gold, 7 silver, 9 bronze, 30 total

3. Australia
-- 8 gold, 11 silver, 9 bronze, 28 total

4. Italy
-- 7 gold, 3 silver, 14 bronze, 24 total

5. France
-- 9 gold, 10 silver, 4 bronze, 23 total

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6. Russia
-- 5 gold, 8 silver, 10 bronze, 23 total

7. Korea
-- 4 gold, 5 silver, 7 bronze, 16 total

8. Germany
-- 3 gold, 5 silver, 7 bronze, 15 total

9. Ukraine
-- 2 gold, 6 silver, 3 bronze, 11 total

10. Netherlands
-- 6 gold, 2 silver, 3 bronze, 11 total

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11. Romania
-- 5 gold, 2 silver, 4 bronze, 11 total

12. Japan
-- 4 gold, 4 silver, 3 bronze, 11 total

13. Great Britain
-- 2 gold, 5 silver, 3 bronze, 10 total

14. Belarus
-- 0 gold, 1 silver, 6 bronze, 7 total

15. Cuba
-- 2 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze, 6 total

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16. Sweden
-- 3 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze, 5 total

17. Switzerland
-- 1 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze, 5 total

18. Slovakia
-- 1 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze, 5 total

19. Indonesia
-- 1 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze, 5 total

20. Bulgaria
-- 3 gold, 1 silver, 0 bronze, 4 total

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21. Poland
-- 2 gold, 2 silver, 0 bronze, 4 total

22. Hungary
-- 2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze, 4 total

23. Canada
-- 1 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze, 4 total

24. Czech Republic
-- 1 gold, 0 silver, 3 bronze, 4 total

25. Spain
-- 2 gold, 0 silver, 1 bronze, 3 total

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26. Greece
-- 0 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze, 3 total

27. Belgium
-- 0 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze, 3 total

28. Turkey
-- 2 gold, 0 silver, 0 bronze, 2 total

29. Mexico
-- 1 gold, 1 silver, 0 bronze, 2 total

30. Brazil
-- 0 gold, 2 silver, 0 bronze, 2 total

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31. Denmark
-- 0 gold, 2 silver, 0 bronze, 2 total

32. North Korea
-- 0 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze, 2 total

33. South Korea
-- 0 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze, 2 total

34. Taiwan
-- 0 gold, 0 silver, 2 bronze, 2 total

35. Costa Rica
-- 0 gold, 0 silver, 2 bronze, 2 total

36. Estonia
-- 0 gold, 0 silver, 2 bronze, 2 total

37. Azerbaijan
-- 1 gold, 0 silver, 0 bronze, 1 total

38. Colombia
-- 1 gold, 0 silver, 0 bronze, 1 total

39. Croatia
-- 1 gold, 0 silver, 0 bronze, 1 total

40. Finland
-- 1 gold, 0 silver, 0 bronze, 1 total

41. Lithuania
-- 1 gold, 0 silver, 0 bronze, 1 total

42. Moldova
-- 0 gold, 1 silver, 0 bronze, 1 total

43. Nigeria
-- 0 gold, 1 silver, 0 bronze, 1 total

44. Uruguay
-- 0 gold, 1 silver, 0 bronze, 1 total

45. Yugoslavia
-- 0 gold, 1 silver, 0 bronze, 1 total

46. Armenia
-- 0 gold, 0 silver, 1 bronze, 1 total

47. Georgia
-- 0 gold, 0 silver, 1 bronze, 1 total

48. India
-- 0 gold, 0 silver, 1 bronze, 1 total

49. Kyrgyzstan
-- 0 gold, 0 silver, 1 bronze, 1 total

50. Kuwait
-- 0 gold, 0 silver, 1 bronze, 1 total

51. Latvia
-- 0 gold, 0 silver, 1 bronze, 1 total

52. New Zealand
-- 0 gold, 0 silver, 1 bronze, 1 total

53. Portugal
-- 0 gold, 0 silver, 1 bronze, 1 total

54. Thailand
-- 0 gold, 0 silver, 1 bronze, 1 total


Alicia Montgomery

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

MORE FROM Alicia Montgomery


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