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Keeping on top of the Games

THE BALTIMORE SUN

DAY 1

Friday, Sept. 15

Burden of flame

Swim legend Dawn Fraser? Cathy Freeman, the Aborigine who could win gold in track and field's 400-meter dash? Golfer Greg Norman? How about model Elle Macpherson? As always, there is suspense regarding who will light the flame during the opening ceremonies at the 110,000-seat Olympic Stadium.

DAY 2

Saturday, Sept. 16

First "tri" The triathlon debuts as a medal event at the Olympics, with the women fighting currents, two severe turns and hopefully no sharks during their .9-mile swim in Sydney Harbor. They'll follow with a 24.8-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run to the Sydney Opera House. Can Johns Hopkins' Joanna Zeiger catch the Australians?

DAY 3

Sunday, Sept. 17

U.S. vs China, Part II

Melbourne was the host of the 1956 Games. This time, it gets some soccer preliminaries, and none is hotter than the U.S. women vs. China at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It's a rematch of their epic 1999 World Cup final, the Americans' penalty-kick shootout win that set a record for U.S. TV viewership of soccer.

DAY 4

Monday, Sept. 18

Boys in the pool

Men's swimming has been overtaken by boys. Ian Thorpe, a 17-year-old Australian, will try to lower his world record in the 200 freestyle. Michael Phelps, the 15-year-old from Rodgers Forge, will challenge the world's best in the 200 butterfly. He'll swim the first round and semifinals today, the final tomorrow.

DAY 5

Tuesday, Sept. 19

Advantage, women

The 10-day Olympic tennis tournament opens. The women's draw is brimming with talent, starting with the sister act of Venus and Serena Williams in doubles. The men's side is beginning to look like the Clifton Park Open, with more defections than the American Davis Cup team. No Sampras, no Agassi ...

DAY 6

Wednesday, Sept. 20

Freewheeling freestyle

Jenny Thompson wants five gold medals. Inge de Bruijn of the Netherlands and Sweden's Therese Alshammar say she can't have them. Thompson is the American record holder in the 100 freestyle, but de Bruijn broke the 6-year-old world record in May. The first two rounds of the sprint are today, the final tomorrow.

DAY 7

Thursday, Sept. 21

Vaulting to medal stand

The Sydney SuperDome has yet another women's gymnastics showdown, this time the women's individual all-around final. Columbia's Elise Ray was the top American at last year's world championships, albeit eighth. Has she improved enough to medal? Will she disappear into one of Bela Karolyi's congratulatory bearhugs?

DAY 8

Friday, Sept. 22

Gonna 'fly now

Two years out of Mount St. Joseph, Tommy Hannan hopes to continue his emergence in the 100 butterfly. The featured swim final comes in the 50 freestyle, which reprises a grudge match between Russian Alexander Popov and American Gary Hall. They finished 1-2 in Atlanta four years ago and own the two fastest times.

DAY 9

Saturday, Sept. 23

Mad dash for glory

It's the tensest 10 seconds in sports, the men's 100-meter dash final at the Olympics. With the straightaway at Olympic Stadium buffeted by early spring breezes, world-record holder Maurice Greene (below) will just settle for the gold here.

DAY 10

Sunday, Sept. 24

Landing some medals

Blaine Wilson won his fifth national all-around gymnastics title earlier this year. He'll see if he can medal in the floor exercise, pommel horse or rings finals. The women's individual event finals include the vault and uneven parallel bars, a discipline in which Columbia's Elise Ray has had an original move named after her.

DAY 11

Monday, Sept. 25

Reeling in the years

Two track masters take over at Olympic Stadium. Four years ago, Michael Johnson made history when he swept the 200 and 400 in Atlanta. He can do so again tonight with a repeat victory in the 400. The men's 10,000 also has a venerable defending champion, Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie. He has held a 4:12 mile pace for the 6.2-mile race.

DAY 12

Tuesday, Sept. 26

Winning by decision

After lengthy appeals, the Supreme Court declared that Matt Lindland would be the U.S. Greco-Roman wrestler at 167 1/2 pounds. It's doubtful he'll make today's gold-medal match. There was also considerable haggling over the selection of the U.S. baseball roster. Tom Lasorda hopes his minor-leaguers are in today's semifinals.

DAY 13

Wednesday, Sept. 27

Hurdling toward history

Two years ago, James Carter was a nobody in the 400 hurdles. The 22-year-old Baltimorean has made incredible improvement and could earn a medal tonight. The decathlon begins, minus the injured Dan O'Brien but with world-record holder Tomas Dvorak of the Czech Republic.

DAY 14

Thursday, Sept. 28

Cream Team III

The preliminaries are over for Dream Team III, the U.S. men's basketball team. Gone are the 60-point blowouts of Group A foes France and New Zealand for Vince Carter, Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett and the gang. Instead, it's a 40-point pounding of the likes of Canada or Spain in the quarterfinals.

DAY 15

Friday, Sept. 29

Keeping up with Jones

It's only the biggest day of Marion Jones' sporting life. By now, she likely will have won the 100 and 200 dashes, and reaffirmed herself as the world's fastest woman. The megastar has been erratic in the long jump. She is capable of winning today's final, or finishing 10th. Can NBC's hype actually increase if she wins?

DAY 16

Saturday, Sept. 30

Crowning glory

This is better than New Year's Day before it was ruined by the bowl coalition. Teresa Edwards goes for her fourth gold medal in five tries in women's basketball. There are boxing and wrestling finals, the gold-medal match in men's soccer and an orgy of nine track and field finals, including Marion Jones in two relays.

DAY 17

Sunday, Oct. 1

Famous final scene

After Dream Team III completes its run, Sydney's marathon finishes with the marathon men. The finishing kick at Olympic Stadium will signal the start of the closing ceremonies, which will dwarf even the Orange Bowl halftime show. For those without a ticket, there is a huge fireworks display in Sydney Harbour. On to Athens, and 2004.

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