Cathy Freeman

9/25/00: Magic Monday at Sydney Olympics

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At the London Olympics, Seb Coe called “Super Saturday” on Aug. 4, 2012, “the greatest day of sport I have ever witnessed.”

Coe, the London Olympic Organizing Committee boss, oversaw a day where Great Britain won six gold medals, including three in track and field in less than an hour.

“I dreamt that we would have a night like that, but not in my wildest dreams did I think that it would actually unfold in the way that it did,” Coe said two years ago. “Up until last night I would never have questioned that the greatest night was ‘Magic Monday’ in Sydney, the Cathy Freeman night. … That was an extraordinary night, and this did edge ahead of it.”

The 14-year anniversary of “Magic Monday” was Thursday.

It was the fourth day of track and field at the Sydney Games, an Olympics that would go on to be called the “best ever” by then-International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch.

The night’s proceedings were recounted well in Bud Greenspan‘s Olympic film from Sydney, which reported more than 110,000 spectators packed Stadium Australia that night, the largest crowd to ever watch Olympic track and field.

“When the evening is over, many in the press will call September 25th the greatest night in track and field history,” film narrator Will Lyman said.

Some highlights in chronological order:

  • Australian Cathy Freeman, who lit the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony, wins the 400m. Freeman, of Aboriginal descent, was the biggest star of the Sydney Games. Shortly after crossing the finish line, she dropped to the track, overcome with exhaustion and relief. She took her victory lap with Australian and Aboriginal flags.
  • Michael Johnson becomes the first man to win consecutive Olympic 400m titles, the start of his final held by several minutes for Freeman’s victory lap. It marked the final individual Olympic race for the world record holder who swept the 200m and 400m in golden shoes in Atlanta four years earlier. Johnson ran in his trademark, up-and-down, work-of-art, upright motion from lane 6, the same as Freeman.
  • American Stacy Dragila wins the first Olympic women’s pole vault competition. The crowd pulled for Tatiana Grigorieva, a Russian-born Australian, who won silver. Vala Flosadottir took bronze, becoming the first woman from Iceland to win an Olympic medal.
  • Great Britain’s Jonathan Edwards earns a long-awaited gold medal in the triple jump, in his fourth Olympics. Edwards broke the world record five years earlier with a jump more than a foot longer than anybody had triple jumped before that day, but was beaten by American Kenny Harrison in Atlanta.
  • Ethiopian Haile Gebreselassie wins the 10,000m, which is 25 laps of the track, by .09 of a second over Kenyan Paul Tergat. Gebreselassie and Tergat’s final head-to-head sprint over the last 100 was historic. Gebreselassie continued a seven-year winning streak in the event.

Photos: What London’s Olympic Stadium will look like as West Ham’s home

Ski jumping World Cup season kicks off in Poland

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The World Cup ski jump season opens Friday with men’s team and individual events in Wisla, Poland.

The host country had three of the top five jumpers in the overall standings last year. Defending champion Kamil Stoch placed third, Piotr Zyla was close behind in fourth, and Dawid Kubacki was fifth.

Japan’s Ryoyu Kobayashi dominated last year’s competition, finishing with 2,085 points to 1,349 for runner-up Stefan Kraft of Austria, the 2017 World Cup champion.

Kobayashi’s performance was a dramatic improvement over his previous season, when he finished no higher than sixth in any individual competition and was 24th overall. Last year, he had 15 wins and 23 podium finishes in 30 World Cup events, though he only managed fourth and 14th in the two world championship events.

The top American last season, Kevin Bickner, finished 51st overall, a drop from 39th the year before. He was 18th and 20th in the 2018 Olympic jumps.

Women’s World Cup action begins Dec. 6-8 in Lillehammer, Norway.

NBC Sports Gold will broadcast World Cup action throughout the season. This weekend, the qualifying jumps will air at noon ET Friday, the team event starts at 11:30 a.m. ET Saturday, and the individual competition is at 6 a.m. Sunday.

MORE: Full ski jumping broadcast schedule

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Snowboarding pioneer Jake Burton Carpenter dies at 65

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Jake Burton Carpenter, the pioneer who brought snowboarding to the masses and helped turn the sport into a billion-dollar business and Olympic showpiece, has died at 65.

He died Wednesday night in Burlington, Vermont, according to an email sent to the staff of the company he founded. Carpenter had emailed his staff this month saying, “You will not believe this, but my cancer has come back.” He had been diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011 but after several months of therapy had been given a clean bill of health.

Carpenter quit his job in New York in 1977 to form the company now known simply as Burton. His goal was to advance the rudimentary snowboard, then called a “Snurfer,” which had been invented by Sherman Poppen a dozen years earlier.

It worked, and more than four decades later, snowboarding is a major fixture at the Winter Games and snowboards are as common as skis at resorts across the globe.

“He was our founder, the soul of snowboarding, the one who gave us the sport we all love so much,” Burton co-CEO John Lacy said in his email to the staff.

It is virtually impossible to avoid the name “Burton” once the snow starts falling at any given mountain around the world these days. The name is plastered on the bottoms of snowboards, embroidered on jackets, stenciled into bindings.

At a bar in Pyeongchang, South Korea, not far from where snowboarding celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Olympics last year, there was a wall filled with Burton pictures and memorabilia — as sure a sign as any of the global reach of a company founded in his garage in Londonderry, Vermont.

The company sponsored pretty much every top rider at one time or another — from Shaun White to Kelly Clark to Chloe Kim.

Carpenter watched all his champions win their Olympic golds from near the finish line, never afraid to grind away in the mosh pit of snowboarders and snowboarding fans that he helped create.

In an interview in 2010, he said he was happy with how far his sport had come, and comfortable with where it was going.

“I had a vision there was a sport there, that it was more than just a sledding thing, which is all it was then,” Burton said. “We’re doing something that’s going to last here. It’s not like just hitting the lottery one day.”

Lacy said details about the celebration of Burton’s life would be coming soon but, for now, “I’d encourage everyone to do what Jake would be doing tomorrow, and that’s riding. It’s opening day at Stowe, so consider taking some turns together, in celebration of Jake.”

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