September 29, 2000
RAY SUAREZ: The second week of the Olympics began with the races to determine the world's fastest man and woman. On Saturday, Maurice Green became the first American sprinter to win the Olympic 100 meters since Carl Lewis in 1988. And Marion Jones' quest for five gold medals began in the women's 100 meters where she posted the fastest time ever in an Olympic final and the largest margin of victory in 48 years. Monday Michael Johnson won his fourth career gold medal and became the first man to win the 400 meters at consecutive Olympics. Later that same day, Australian Kathy Freeman provided the emotional highlight of the week by winning the women's 400 meters and becoming the first aborigine to win an individual Olympic gold medal. On Tuesday attention turned from the track to the baseball diamond. The U.S. women's softball team, one game from elimination, beat Japan in extra innings 2-1 to win a second consecutive gold medal. The next day the American men's baseball team also won gold in a major upset against the heavily favored Cubans. But perhaps the biggest upset of the games came later Wednesday in the miracle on the matt. American Greco-Roman wrestler Rulan Gardner's victory over the never beaten Russian Alexander Karalen 1-0.
SPORTSCASTER: In the penalty box, a rebound the shot... Goooaaaal.
RAY SUAREZ: Last night in Sydney, disappointment for the U.S. women's soccer team, they failed in their attempt to repeat as gold medal winners losing to Norway in overtime 3-2. And then it was back to the track for Marion Jones' second gold medal, this one in the 200 meters.
SPORTSCASTER: Fair start and Marion Jones attacking right out of the blocks, Kathy Freeman down in lane two, not off to the greatest start. Here they come at the top of the home straightaway. Marion Jones has the lead. Marion... Marion Jones powers to the front. It's Marion Jones -- No one else can catch her. She's running away from the field again. Here they go to the line. It's Marvelous Marion: gold number two.
RAY SUAREZ: Jones' margin of victory in the 200 was the largest since 1960.
RAY SUAREZ: Today, Marion Jones proved she was human after all, placing
third in the long jump. Her attempt for what would now be four gold
medals continues in relay races tomorrow. Joining me now to talk about
the games, Pat Connolly, a three-time Olympian in the 1960's -- she
is a track and field coach today -- and from Sydney, Christine Brennan,
a freelance writer and commentator. She's covering the Olympics for
"USA Today," "ESPN Magazine" and National Public
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Well, as you can see from behind me, the beauty of the city of Sydney, Australia is certainly something that will stay with us forever. And I think the way the games were run by Sydney, which may not have come through on American television, was superb. I've been in nine Olympics - winter and summer - and this is the best I've ever seen. I think that's the feel-good attitude. The flip side, of course, and there's always a flip side in the Olympics or any sports story we cover these days, is the tainted games -- drug issue, of course, always - in gymnastics, in track and field, in weight lifting, other places -- the disappointments in some cases, Lance Armstrong not winning his one race, although he has another chance today in the time trials and cycling; the women's soccer team not winning the gold but handling it beautifully as silver medallists; Marion Jones not achieving the five gold medals. You get the back and forth, the good and the bad. It's much more I think a mirror of us now, the Olympic games are, than the escape that we used to hope they were and that they in fact at one point were. I think it's more a mirror of our society rather than an escape.
RAY SUAREZ: And, Pat Connolly, granted you're watching it from halfway around the world but how are these games registering with you?
PAT CONNOLLY: Well, they've always -- athletes have always been a mirror, as Christine says, but there is also that leap to the ancient Olympic games and forward into future Olympic games. And I think that Marion Jones' performance is one that has done that. She is essentially creating an odyssey of her own, which is only beginning with Sydney because while she didn't achieve her goal of five gold medals, she still has to look forward to Greece where she will have another chance to do that. But as far as the games being a feel-good games, I certainly have had that feeling from the athletes I've spoken with that have been down there -- and also compare that to Rome, which was my first Olympic games -- and that was an incredible feel-good thing. Yes, there were always scandals, even then, of drugs, but Sydney has done a marvelous job.
RAY SUAREZ: You heard Christine Brennan refer to these as tainted games. There has been a lot of talk about drugs, the games going ahead in the shadow of questions about the use of drugs. Was it as important for you as you watched the competitions unfold?
PAT CONNOLLY: Of course it's important for me. The drug issue has been one, especially for women, that has really dampened our excitement for, and our efforts to even try to win because it's very difficult to win against athletes who are taking drugs. It forces you in the question, will you have to take them to be there? But at the same time, I'm so thrilled to have Marion to be in these games, to show to women that you can do it without. And of course everyone is saying but her husband, her husband C.J., is taking drugs. But the guilt by association is just asinine. I've been through that myself when I coached Evelyn Ashford, and because my husband was a former admitted drug user, people were saying, well Coach Connolly is giving her drugs, when in fact we weren't, and Marion has started off so much talent as a child, as a young person. When I first got a call when she was not even 16 years old from a former athlete of mine who was coaching her, and he was telling me he had this incredible talented young lady. He wasn't sure what to do with her. And it was clear from that time on, especially in 1992 Olympic trials, where she emerged as just the most phenomenal athlete ever.
And I can compare Marion to sprinters like Wilma Rudolph, like Evelyn Ashford, like Irena Shevenska, and the news didn't mention that that was who gave Marion her 200 meter medal. Irena Kirzenstein Shevenska was from Poland and she won medals in the long jump and the pentathlon and the sprints and she was the Olympic champion in the 400 meter - a phenomenal woman -- but because she is from Poland, we haven't heard a lot about her here in this country. But Marion, Marion is ahead of all of them from childhood. And she just has that unique something that it takes. It's almost as if she's leaping off of Homer's pages in an odyssey of her own.
RAY SUAREZ: Christine Brennan, let's talk a little more about Marion Jones. There is this odd letdown, a sort of weird disappointment that after winning stunningly two gold medals, running away from the field, she has to somehow settle for being the third best long jumper on planet earth and that's a big crushing letdown. It's weird.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: That is strange. And I think one of the things that has happened here is that Marion has been maybe done in a little bit by her own publicity, by her own pre-Olympics hype. One of the things when I first heard and we talked about this a lot, Pat, when we first talked about Marion and talked about five gold medals, my first thought was, oh, boy, I don't know if you want to do that if you're Marion Jones, if you want all that hype, if you want to be on the magazine covers talking about five gold medals, because all you can do then is meet expectations. You cannot exceed them.
I remember the 1984 Olympics, Pat, of course remembers them very well. Carl Lewis, he said he was going to win four. He was photographed with four before the games. He won four and everyone said ho-hum. Carl Lewis just won four gold medals. It was an incredible achievement even in the boycotted Olympics but it was just meeting expectations - just I say -- it was unbelievable. But if you looked at the perception that Carl just did what he said he would do, and I think Marion is a bit in that same kind of situation, a little bit of purgatory, not quite perfect and obviously nowhere near terrible; but the sense that the public perception with Marion Jones, five gold medals. It's probably going to be Marion Jones, two gold or maybe three with the relays, maybe two silvers - maybe a silver or bronze, something like that. The relays are really the problem for the United States and I think Marion may not win a gold medal today. It could end up with two - with again a bronze or two and a silver and I think that's a terrific Olympics for Marion Jones. She comes out of these games very much a star, but not the same kind of star that Madison Avenue would have you believe. And I think that's going to be a bit of a spin issue now for Marion Jones' handlers as she comes out of these games. Again not to taint her at all, and I do believe the C. J. Hunter story - maybe, Pat, you and I might disagree on that one. I think the question is what did Marion know and when did she know it. She has claimed to be a drug-free athlete. I believe her. She has said she wants to have clean people around her, I want to believe that too, but her husband tested positive four times - not once, not twice - four times -- for a performance enhancing drug - Nandralone -- over this past summer. That's a very significant issue and Marion Jones needs to address it I think even more than she has in terms of what she knew about her husband's drug use -- alleged drug use at this point and when did she know it.
RAY SUAREZ: Pat Connolly?
PAT CONNOLLY: Well, I certainly am not in the inner circle to know when she knew and so forth, but I do know that husbands and wives are very close and you can't help but know some things, but whether the injections are vitamin B-12 shots or whether they're testosterone, which is another substance that I believe he was caught in a previous meet using, you don't necessarily... you wouldn't necessarily divulge that. He probably... I would hope that he would protect her from knowing that.
RAY SUAREZ: Isn't it a kind of glass half empty-half full question when we're talking about nearly 7,000 athletes, a few Bulgarian weight lifters, Andrea Raducan, the all around winner in the gymnastics competition, a fairly small number -- and here we are talking about C.J. as well -- Hunter -- a man who's not even competing in these games. Has this Olympiad been relatively clean as we look over the last four or five?
PAT CONNOLLY: Well, that's a very good question, and I'm probably the worst person to ask because I believe no, I believe absolutely nothing has really changed with the organizations. There's bantering back and forth between the USA track and field Greg Massback and the IOC medical doctors about all of the positive tests that we don't know about. And we do know there were an awful lot of athletes that withdrew from the games, C.J. Being one of them. Supposedly he had knee surgery. But now we find out that he had all of these positives. Well, those of us that are in the inner circle, so to speak, we knew about the positives before he pulled out and we are sort of used to our athletes getting caught and getting away with it. That's a more serious problem than rather Marion knew whether C.J. was taking drugs or not.
RAY SUAREZ: Christine, in the time we have left to us, maybe we could talk a little bit about the kind of stories we're not seeing here in the United States because we see this so narrowly through the lens of American victories and American loss. Are people making a big impact there from other countries around the world that we're not hearing as much about?
CRHSTINE BRENNAN: Certainly. One of those countries absolutely is Australia. The things I have witnessed in the swimming pool the first week, Ian Thorpe, the great 17-year-old with the size 17 or maybe size 18 now feet, winning first two gold medals for Australia, one in the relay, one in the 400 freestyle. That was about two weeks ago now. But the pool was absolutely just alive, and 17,000 people screaming their lungs out for this young man from Australia and swimming, of course, is such a big sport for Australians. They've done so well here. The swimmer from equatorial Guinea who nearly drowned in the pool. That's a story kind of like Eddie the Eagle or the Jamaican bobsled team that will last forever, so absolutely, for the United States a great Olympics but all around the country there are moments and there are stories, especially for the Australians with Kathy Freeman and the swimmers that I think will last forever. I think clearly Australia has said these are the greatest moments of their entire history of their entire country. Think about that: One sporting event making such an impact on an island nation of 19 million people. It really has been hey privilege to be here.
RAY SUAREZ: Christine Brennan thanks a lot. Pat Connolly, good to talk to you.