Wrap Up: Women's Gold Medal Basketball

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Sometimes you judge a sport not by what happens on court but by what happens in the stands. For in the U.S.vs. Australia women's gold-medal basketball match, the on-court action was scrappy, sloppy and churlish. But what was happening among these fans of basketball was nothing but pure exhilaration.

It was an expected American blowout as the U.S. claimed its second consecutive gold medal, but the Aussie crowd didn't let that ruin their "Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie, Oi, Oi, Oi" good cheer. As the fouls and glares piled up on court, the fans simply started their own fun, cheerfully ribbing U.S. men's champs Kevin Garnett and Alonzo Mourning — who was so taken by Sydney that he gave the city's name to his newborn daughter, Myka Sydney — as the towering duo sat in the stands holding aloft a hand-drawn sign more suited to a junior-high pep rally: USA Came Down Under, Got Gold.

When the American women whooped in elation after the buzzer signaled a 76-54 rout, the Aussies clapped respectfully — and the gesture seemed more natural than forced. "You have to understand, we only have 18 million people," explained a Sydney Morning Herald journalist. "To really enjoy sport, we're happy to cheer on other countries, too."

None of that really mattered to Aussie captain Michele Timms, a feisty guard with spikey blond hair, who ran into the stands to collapse in her grandparents' arms. "We tried," she whispered, as her grandmother smoothed her hair. As Timms headed back on court to prepare for the silver-medal ceremony, an American fan reached out. She wore a bright pattern of the Stars and Stripes on her sleeve, but her heart was with the Aussie basketballer. "It's okay," she said. "It's okay."

As Timms looked up, at the American with the flag T shirt, at the crowd decked out in the Aussie colors of green and gold, and she smiled. That weak grin was an echo of Maurice Greene, of Cathy Freeman, of Steve Redgrave. But most of all, it reflected the emotions in the stands, where normal people saw hope and glory on the court and cherished every moment of Olympic history.