- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2000

The seemingly endless, five-hour opening ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics may have left viewers here and around the world reeling. Fortunately, there has been more to cheer about in the first few days of competition, with some truly spectacular results coming in.

The Games' track-and-field contests began with a flourish. In history's first Olympic triathlon a grueling, three-sport event that combines a 1,500-meter (nearly one mile) cold-water swim in Sydney's harbor, a 40-kilometer (nearly 25 miles) bicycle race through the city's resplendent harbor area and a 10-kilometer (6 miles) run 33-year-old Swiss high school teacher Brigitte McMahon sprinted past hometown favorite Michellie Jones to win the 2-hour race by 2 seconds.

No sooner had the Aussies' hopes been dashed in the women's triathlon than 17-year-old Australian swimming phenom Ian Thorpe reignited them the next day with two sizzling, world-record-breaking, gold medal performances in the pool. Known as "the Thorpedo," the 6-foot-5-inch Thorpe smashed his own world record in the 400-meter freestyle. Later the same day, anchoring the Aussies' 4x100-freestyle relay team, Thorpe came from behind to edge the American team, which had won this event in each of its seven previous renditions.

America's female swimmers have been outstanding. Jenny Thompson set an Olympic record for women by capturing her sixth gold medal, anchoring the U.S. world-record-breaking 4x100-meter freestyle relay team, which also featured 33-year-old Dara Torres, who became the oldest female swimmer from any country to win a gold medal. Brooke Bennett added the 400-meter freestyle gold medal to the 800-meter freestyle gold medal she won in Atlanta at the age of 16.

Arguably the most courageous performance so far was turned in by Arlington native Tom Dolan. A fearless 24-year-old asthmatic who soothed his aching lungs by receiving oxygen in the medical tent after his morning qualifying heats, Dolan somehow made it to the starting block for the evening's finals. Exemplifying the fortitude that has been the hallmark of his swimming career, Dolan successfully indeed, incomprehensibly defended his 1996 gold medal performance in the 400-meter individual medley by smashing the world record he had set as an 18-year-old in 1994.

Many of the athletic feats achieved in the early days of the 27th Summer Games in Sydney have been nothing short of staggering. And to think that America's splendid sprinter, Marion Jones, who has an excellent chance to capture five count 'em, five gold medals, hasn't even put on her running shoes yet. Brace yourselves on your couches, folks. You ain't seen nothing yet.

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