Sydney's Games: A Bluffers Guide

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They are part athletes, part acrobats, and their seemingly impossible feats of gravity-defying contortion form one of the Games' most compelling spectacles. Male gymnasts in Sydney will compete in the six artistic events-the pommel horse, the rings, vault, parallel bars, floor and horizontal bars. For the women (more accurately, girls), there are two disciplines: artistic-vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor; and rhythmic-rope, hoop, ball, ribbon or clubs. In trampolining, which debuts as a medal sport at Sydney, the men will bound as high as 9-10 m.


Expect a tussle between Atlanta all-around silver medalist Alexei Nemov, of Russia, and compatriot Nikolay Krukov, the world all-around champion. Nemov is rated the world's best in the pommel horse and the floor exercise, and won gold on the vault at Atlanta. The Russians, Chinese and Ukrainians are traditionally the strongest in the six events of the men's artistic category-but watch for individual stars like Spain's Jesus Carballo, on the horizontal bars, and China's Dong Zhen on the rings.

The team world champions are Romania, whose Maria Olaru is the all-around individual world champ. But Sydney's medals will be fiercely contested, with Russian team leader Svetlana Khorkina, 1996 gold medalist on the uneven bars, expected to mount a strong challenge for the all-around gold-one of the few gymnastics honors that still elude her.

In the team event, Romania, Russia and Ukraine will fight it out for the gold medal -with China also a strong contender. Australia, now ranked fifth in the world, are considered a bronze-medal chance, with the U.S. their main rivals.


The top contenders will be Russian sensation Alina Kabaeva, the all-around world champion, and her compatriot Elena Vitrichenko, world champion in the rope and hoop. Also a chance is Yulia Raskina of Belarus, in the ribbon and ball. Russia, Belarus and Ukraine should lead the team medal chase.


Russia's Alexandre Moskalenko is rated the world's best, but has several rivals, including David Martin of France and Australia's Ji Wallace.

After a stunning effort at last year's world championships, where she set a new world record and performed 21 somersaults and 12 twists in under 20 sec., Russia's Irina Karavaeva will shine, but she has determined rivals, including Ukraine's Oksana Tsyhuleva.


Men's Artistic

  • Team Sept. 18
  • Indiv. All-round Sept. 20
  • Indiv. Apparatus Sept.24, 25

Women's Artistic

  • Team final Sept. 19
  • Indiv. all-around Sept. 21
  • Indiv. apparatus Sept. 24, 25

Men's & Women's Gala Sept. 26

Women's Rhythmic

  • Group Sept. 30
  • Individual all-round Oct. 1

Men's Trampoline

  • Final Sept. 23

Women's Trampoline

  • Final Sept. 22


Though it's usually played indoors, handball resembles an upper-body version of soccer: on its way to the goal, the ball can be thrown, bounced or butted with any part of the body but the lower legs and feet (only goalkeepers are exempt from this rule). One of Europe's most popular sports, it's also growing fast in Africa.

Sweden were beaten into second place at Atlanta and Barcelona but are now world champions; with 1996 gold winners Croatia not competing, their chief concerns will be Spain and Russia.

Denmark will be trying for their second consecutive Olympic gold medal, keenly pursued by Atlanta runners- up Korea (which won gold at the last two Olympics), Hungary and current world champions Norway.


  • Men's Sept. 30

  • Women's Oct. 1


An 11-a-side sport that is the rough equivalent of soccer with sticks, hockey demands speed, skill and creativity.

No country has dominated men's hockey at the Games since India's run of six consecutive gold medals ended in 1956. In fact, the last six tournaments have produced six different champions. Only the Australian Hockeyroos, defending champions in Sydney, have managed to win twice.

Spearheaded by the 1999 International Player of the Year, Stephan Veen, defending champions the Netherlands are favorites. Among the 11 challengers in Sydney, four stand out: Germany, Spain, Pakistan and Australia.

Can anyone stop Australia? A few months ago hockey insiders were saying no. Now they're not so sure. The Hockeyroos faltered in June, when they lost a big tournament for the first time since the early '90s. The Netherlands are the strongest of a remarkably even second tier that includes Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand and Korea.


  • Men's final Sept. 30
  • Women's final Sept. 29


If judo is the kinder, gentler martial art-developed as an alternative to the more ferocious jujitsu, it translates in English as "the gentle way"-then it seems the formidable Japanese team hasn't been told. Judoka (as competitors are called) from the sport's homeland have muscled in on twice as much Olympic gold as their nearest rivals since the sport joined the Games program in 1964, though in some divisions their lock on the top spots is weakening. Men

Japan may have a stranglehold on the sport, but the giant of world judo is 120-kg Frenchman David Douillet, gold medalist in the heavyweight (100+ kg) division at Atlanta and the holder of three world championship titles. Japan's hopes of upsetting Douillet rest on Shinichi Shinohara. In the 100-kg class, one to watch will be Japanese newcomer Kosei Inoue, who won his first world title last year. Former Olympic champ Hidehiko Yoshida (90 kg) is also a good bet for a medal, while world champions Graham Randall (81 kg) of Great Britain and Jimmy Pedro (73 kg) of the U.S. will be doing their utmost to out-throw the Japanese. Women

Much is expected of the Japanese women, too. One of the best is the extra lightweight (48 kg) Ryoko Tamura, who won four world championships in the '90s and silver at Atlanta. But the female pacesetters in judo have been Cubans, such as defending Olympic lightweight (57 kg) champion Diruli Gonzalez. Strong teams will also come from China, France and Korea.



  • Heavywt (100+ kg) Sept. 22
  • Half-heavywt (100 kg) Sept. 21
  • Half-middlewt (81 kg) Sept. 19
  • Lightwt (73 kg) Sept. 18


  • Extra lightwt (48 kg) Sept. 16
  • Lightwt (57 kg) Sept. 18

Modern Pentathlon

Derived from a sport introduced to the ancient Olympics to appease the war-loving Spartans, the modern pentathlon requires competitors to perform in five disciplines in a single day. After firing an open-air pistol 20 times at 20 targets 10 m away, competitors must complete a bout of fencing, a 200-m freestyle swim, and a horse race over a 350-m to 450-m obstacle course.

Finally, the weary athletes attempt a 3,000-m run, in which they start according to a handicap scheme. The first to stagger over the finish line wins the gold medal. At Sydney, women will be knocking themselves out in the pentathlon for the first time.

European athletes-mainly from Sweden, Hungary and other former Soviet-bloc countries-have dominated the sport since its Olympic debut, winning all but four minor medals since 1912. The favorite is world champion Andrejus Zadneprovskis of Lithuania. His main challengers are likely to be Hungarians Gabor Balogh and Peter Sarfalvi, Estonia's Imre Tiidemann, the current World Cup champion, and France's Sebastien Deleigne.

Whoever becomes the first Olympic champion in the women's pentathlon will have beaten an excellent field. Among the favorites are Denmark's Pernille Svarre, who won this year's world championships at the age of 39, and the woman she dethroned, Belarus's Janna Dolgacheva-Shubenok. In the wake of Poland's surprise team victory at this year's world championships, veteran competitor Dorata Idzi will be another all-rounder to watch.


  • Men Sept. 30
  • Women Oct. 1


The close synchronization needed to propel a shell (boat) in a smooth, fast glide belies the size and power of a rowing crew. Sydney's eight-day Olympic regatta will include eight men's and six women's events. Raced over 2,000 m, either solo in sculls or in crews of two, four or eight, the contests fall into two broad classes: sculling, where each rower has two oars, and sweep racing, where each rower has one.

The race not to be missed is the men's coxless fours. In Barcelona and Atlanta it was the domain of Australia's "Oarsome Foursome," but in Sydney the spotlight will be on veteran Olympian Steve Redgrave, who has joined the British four in his record-setting bid to win gold medals at five separate Games. In the single sculls, New Zealand's world champion Rob Waddell will duel with the reigning Olympic champion, Xeno Muller of Switzerland. The remarkable Australian crew of James Tomkins and Matthew Long will row for gold in the coxless pairs. They were thrown together at July's world championships 10 min. before the race, but still won impressively. In the blue-ribbon eights event, the U.S. crew, three times world champions since Atlanta, are favorites, with Australia and Great Britain the likely challengers.

The Canadian coxless pair of Emma Robinson, who endured a cancer scare and surgery last year, and Theresa Luke set a world record in their heat at last year's world championships. But Australian duo Kate Slatter, an Atlanta gold medalist, and Rachel Taylor should push them in Sydney. The strong German team includes world-record-holding double sculls pair Jana Thieme and Kathrin Boron and the world champion quad sculls crew. In Atlanta, Belarussian single sculler Ekaterina Karsten won her country's first Olympic gold medal. Her recent form-two World Cup wins this year and world championships in 1997 and 1999-augurs well for Sydney. In the eights, the Romanians look untouchable, with Canada and Australia their main rivals.



  • Coxless Fours Sept. 23
  • Single Sculls Sept. 23
  • Coxless Pairs Sept. 23
  • Eights Sept. 24


  • Coxless Pairs Sept. 23
  • Double Sculls Sept. 23
  • Quad Sculls Sept. 24
  • Single Sculls Sept. 23
  • Eights Sept. 24