The Best of Sports in 1998

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1. RED WHITE AND BLEUS France seemed to be less-than-fervent about soccer, unsure in its role as host of the World Cup, and was certainly not tipped to upset the mighty Brazilians. But after beating surprise semi-finalists Croatia, the French stormed to the nation's first Cup victory. Les Bleus boasted players from France's Basque, Breton and New Caledonian regions and two of the stars, Lilian Thuram and Zinedine Zidane, have African and Arab roots. Their 3-0 team effort in the final was also a victory against the country's xenophobes.2. HAILE UNBEATABLE The run of the year was probably Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj's 1,500-m performance in Rome that broke the three-year world record of Noureddine Morceli. But last month the International Amateur Athletic Federation named Haile Gebrselassie athlete of the year. Not surprising given that the Ethiopian was unbeaten and set four world records, including regaining his 5,000-m and 10,000-m marks.3. THE JONES GIRL The IAAF had little trouble choosing Marion Jones as the year's best woman athlete. Jones is recognized as the top sprinter since Florence Griffith Joyner, who died suddenly in September at age 38. Flo-Jo's husband, Al Joyner, who was at the award presentation in Monte Carlo, said: Florence was amazed at Marion and said she had the ability to break her 100-m and 200-m world records.4. DOWN TO THE McGWIRE Mark of the 48-cm biceps and red beard passed baseball's magic figure of 61 home runs hit by Roger Maris 37 years ago and finished the season with three score and 10. The St. Louis Cardinals' slugger was chased all year by the Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa, who bashed 66.5. A DIFFERENT MARK This one, surnamed O'Meara, proved by winning the U.S. Masters and the British Open at the ripe age of 41 that good golfers are like fine wines. Meanwhile, it was a bubbly year for South Korean rookie Pak Se Ri. Roughly half O'Meara's age, she took the U.S. Women's Open and the USLPGA championship, and her earnings for the year totaled nearly $800,000.6. ROUGH RIDE It was an absolutely terrible Tour de France, with the spotlight more on peddling than pedaling. In the end, however, mountaineer Marco Pantani kept his shaved head cool, finally dethroning Germany's Jan Ullrich to become the first Italian to win the Tour for 33 years.PAGE 1  |  
There was more than just Monica
Nothing could touch Saving Private Ryan
Tom Wolfe returned as the novelist in full
France's World Cup of joy brimmed over
Seinfeld's sayonara was much ado about nothing
No prizes for guessing The Big One
A noble winner--and a pair of Nobel losers
Saving Suriname ... and the swordfish
 
7. MIGHTY MICKS Mika Hakkinen and Mick Doohan were best on four and two wheels, respectively. The Finn won his first Formula One title despite the fierce efforts of Ferrari's Michael Schumacher. The Australian won his fifth 500-cc motorbike championship.8. HIGH SIX It wasn't his best year, but Pete Sampras did win Wimbledon and did finish No. 1, becoming the first player to hold that ranking for six successive years. The man with the talent (if not yet the temperament) to dethrone him, Chile's Marcelo Rios, finished second. And in the women's game, who could have predicted that Lindsay Davenport would overtake Martina Hingis to top the year's rankings?9. GOLD BRICK Austria's Hermann Maier, dubbed The Herminator for the bulk he built as a former bricklayer and for his daring on skis, became Austria's first overall world champion in 28 years. In a remarkable year, he won 10 World Cup races and two Olympic golds in Nagano, Japan.10. MARK III Australian cricket captain Mark Taylor hit 334 runs in one innings against Pakistan. In deference to Sir Donald Bradman, who did likewise in 1930 against England, Taylor opted not to bat on and overtake the Don's total. Bradman, now 90, sent Taylor congratulations.AND THE WORSTInternational Olympic Committee boss Juan Antonio Samaranch, for condoning performance-enhancing substances as long as they don't harm athletes' health; authorities in Queensland, for letting young girls enter the boxing ring; the Nevada Athletic Commission for welcoming biter Mike Tyson back into it.  |  2
There was more than just Monica
Nothing could touch Saving Private Ryan
Tom Wolfe returned as the novelist in full
France's World Cup of joy brimmed over
Seinfeld's sayonara was much ado about nothing
No prizes for guessing The Big One
A noble winner--and a pair of Nobel losers
Saving Suriname ... and the swordfish