Turner Field

Memorable moments from Centennial Olympic Stadium (Turner Field)

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All that will be left are memories once Turner Field is demolished.

Of course, Turner Field was originally known as Centennial Olympic Stadium. It was built for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the Centennial Games 100 years after the first modern Olympics were staged.

Here are 10 highlights from 17 years ago, in no particular order:

1. Muhammad Ali lights Olympic cauldron

The night of July 19 provided the lasting image of the Games. Ali, 54 and slowed by Parkinson’s, was the final leg of the torch relay, receiving a handoff from swimmer Janet Evans and lighting the Olympic cauldron.

Later in the Games, Ali would receive a replacement for the 1960 Olympic gold medal he lost.

2. Michael Johnson breaks world record in 200m

The man with the golden shoes doubled up in the 200m and 400m. He broke the Olympic record to win the 400m in 43.49 seconds, but his 200m gold three days later was more impressive.

Johnson, in his trademark upright running style, took a whopping .34 of a second off his previous record set less than two months before the Games. He ran fast enough to be ticketed for speeding in a school zone.

3. Gail Devers dedicates 100m win to bombing victims

Devers, known for her long fingernails, edged Merlene Ottey and Georgia native Gwen Torrance in a photo finish to defend her Olympic title. Devers and Ottey both ran 10.94, while Torrance took bronze in 10.96.

Devers said after that the victims of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing from earlier that day were in her thoughts.

4. Donovan Bailey breaks world record in 100m

The Canadian followed up his world championship with an Olympic title, winning in 9.84 seconds to break Leroy Burrell‘s world record of 9.85 from 1994.

Bailey’s look of astonishment as he crossed the finish line was an indelible memory from the track and field competition at those Games. As was 1992 Olympic champion Linford Christie‘s false-start disqualification.

5. Marie-Jose Perec pulls off 200m-400m double

The French gazelle got far less press than Johnson did for his 200m-400m double. She defended her title in the 200m and then won the 400m in an Olympic record time.

Australian Cathy Freeman took silver in the 400m, four years before she became the star of the 2000 Olympics.

6. Dan O’Brien wins decathlon

O’Brien was a redemption story in track and field, having shockingly missed the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team by no-heighting in the pole vault at the Olympic Trials.

He came back with a fervor for Atlanta, scoring 8,824 points (23 off Daley Thompson‘s Olympic record) to become the first American in 20 years to win the 10-event competition.

7. Jackie Joyner-Kersee ends career with bronze

Joyner-Kersee, at 34, was hampered by a hamstring injury going into her final Olympics. She withdrew after one event in the heptathlon, leaving her in doubt for the long jump.

She gamely qualified for the long jump final. In sixth place with one jump to go, she summoned a 23-footer to snag the bronze, her sixth career Olympic medal.

8. Morceli’s win, El Guerrouj’s fall in 1500m

The 1500m saw a clash between two of the greatest middle-distance runners of all time.

World record holder and three-time world champion Nourredine Morceli won gold, but it was what happened as the bell rung that went down in history.

Hicham El Guerrouj, then 21, tripped and fell after spiking Morceli in the right Achilles tendon going into the final lap. El Guerrouj would get up, finish 12th and last and wait eight years before winning double gold in 2004.

9. Carl Lewis ties gold-medal record

Lewis, at 35, won his fourth straight Olympic title in the long jump for his ninth career Olympic gold medal. That tied the record for most career Olympic gold medals (later to be smashed by Michael Phelps).

A debate raged over whether Lewis would be put on the U.S. 4x100m relay team later in the Games. He was not, and therefore unable to try for a solo record 10th Olympic gold. Not that it would have mattered. Canada, anchored by Bailey, won by .36 of a second over the U.S.

10. Closing Ceremony

The Games concluded with a festive night of performances that included Stevie Wonder performing John Lennon‘s “Imagine.”

International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch did not declare Atlanta the “best Games ever,” as he did in Barcelona and then in Sydney.

“Well done, Atlanta,” he said. “These Centennial Games — the Games of universality and unity — have indeed been most exceptional.”

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Rafael Nadal can tie Roger Federer’s Slam record with 13th French Open

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For all of the many qualities contributing to Rafael Nadal’s unprecedented superiority at the French Open — the bullwhip of a high-bouncing lefty forehand, the reflex returns, the cover-every-corner athleticism, the endless energy and grit — there’s one element that stands above all the rest.

According to the opponent Nadal beat in the last two finals in Paris, anyway.

“You go into the match knowing that even your best tennis, even if you play it over three, four hours, might not be enough. I mean, if you do it, you maybe have a little chance, but you have to go to your limit on every single rally, every single point,” Dominic Thiem, who won the U.S. Open less than two weeks ago, told The Associated Press.

“That makes it not easy to go into the match,” Thiem said. “And that’s the mental part, I guess.”

When main-draw competition begins Sunday at Roland Garros, Thiem and every other player in the men’s bracket will be pursuing Nadal as the 34-year-old from Spain pursues history.

If Nadal manages to claim a 13th French Open championship — extending his own record for the most singles trophies won by anyone at any major tennis tournament — he would, more significantly, also collect his 20th Grand Slam title overall, tying Roger Federer’s record for a man.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Nadal’s tally elsewhere: four U.S. Opens, two Wimbledons, one Australian Open.

He spoke Friday in Paris about what “probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros” — a lack of matches in 2020; a new brand of tennis balls (“super slow, heavy”); cooler weather and plenty of rain in the forecast.

“But you know what?” Nadal said. “I am here to fight and to play with the highest intensity possible.”

Asked recently about the possibility of catching the 39-year-old Federer, out for the rest of the season after a pair of operations on his right knee, Nadal expressed a sentiment he’s uttered before.

Climbing the Grand Slam list, Nadal said, is “not an obsession at all.”

“I know that you put a lot of attention on all of this,” he replied when the topic was raised last week at the Italian Open, Nadal’s first tournament since February because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Of course I would love to finish my career with 25, but (that’s) something that probably will not happen. I’m going to keep fighting to produce chances, and then when I finish my career, let’s see, no?” he said. “I just want to keep enjoying tennis. And that’s it. If I am playing well, I know I normally have my chances. If not, going to be impossible. That’s it.”

There is, of course, another great of the game playing during this era and, like Nadal, gaining on Federer.

That would be No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic, who had won five of seven major titles to raise his total to 17 before being disqualified at the U.S. Open for accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball while walking to a changeover.

In this oddest of years, the Grand Slam season will drawing to a close in France; the clay-court major was postponed from May until now because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Roland Garros is the last Slam, the last opportunity of this season. So we all know who the main favorite is there: Obviously, it’s Nadal. And everything that he has achieved there, losing maybe a couple matches in his entire career on that court … is probably the most impressive record that anybody has on any court,” Djokovic said. “So, yeah, of course you would put him right there in front as a favorite to win it.”

For the record: Nadal has won 93 of 95 matches in the French Open and his last 21 in a row.

So what makes him so dominant there?

“He’s an unbelievably great tennis player. Probably on clay, a little bit better than on the other surfaces,” Thiem said. “He’s left-handed, which makes it very uncomfortable. And then his forehand, the topspin on the clay, it’s cruel to play.”

Thiem takes notes and hopes to emulate aspects of Nadal’s game.

So do others.

In Rome, for example, two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep and one of her coaches, Artemon Apostu-Efremov, caught one of Nadal’s training sessions.

“We were watching the way he hits the ball, the acceleration, the energy he has on the court and the way he practices 100%. It’s always an inspiration,” Apostu-Efremov said.

“This dedication on the court and focus on court,” he said, “it’s something that, for sure, could be transferred to Simona.”

Nadal wound up losing his third match in Italy, which is neither ideal form nor the sort of prep work he is accustomed to ahead of Roland Garros.

Still, Nadal at the French Open is unlike anyone else, anywhere else.

“Regardless of how he feels, I’m sure he’ll find a way,” said Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 2019 Australian Open semifinalist seeded No. 5 in Paris. “He always finds a way, every single year. Clay is his surface. I’m sure he’s going to do well.”

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Skate America will not have fans

Skate America
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Skate America, the top annual international figure skating competition held in the U.S., will not have spectators in Las Vegas from Oct. 23-25.

U.S. Figure Skating said the restriction was “due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in strict accordance with the Nevada Gaming Control Board guidelines.”

Skate America is the first top-level event of the season, kicking off the six-stop Grand Prix Series leading up to December’s Grand Prix Final, which is scheduled this season for Beijing.

The series has already been modified to restrict fields to skaters from the host country or to the event closest to their training location.

Grand Prix fields have not been announced, though two-time world champion Nathan Chen said last month he hoped to go for a fourth straight Skate America title.

Chen trains in California. Most, if not all, top U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada, which means they will compete in Skate America or Skate Canada if they participate in the Grand Prix Series at all.

Two-time U.S. women’s champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough to compete on the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

Skaters are limited to one Grand Prix start this season. In past seasons, they’ve typically competed twice.

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