9/25/00: Magic Monday at Sydney Olympics

Cathy Freeman
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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