Work in Sports
Things to look for during track competition
SYDNEY, Australia -- Sorry, mates, but the Olympics begin for real on Friday morning here. Swimming? Gymnastics? Basketball? Baseball? Bunch of JV games. Track and field -- or athletics, as they say in the rest of the world -- is the real deal.
Ten questions (and answers) to get you warmed up for the show:
1. Will Marion Jones win five gold medals?
She'll come close, but I'm guessing no. With Inger Miller out of the 100 (and maybe the deuce), the sprints are a lock for Jones. I say she misses out in the long jump or the four-by-four. But if Miller bails on the four-by-one, even that gets a little dicey. Just for the record, four gold medals is not a failure, it's bloody historic.
2. Will Maurice Greene win the 100 or fall on his face after more than three years at the top?
He'll win. Fast, too.
3. Are Hicham El Guerrouj and Haile Gebrselassie unbeatable in the 1,500 and 10,000, respectively?
Not by a long shot.
4. Is there going to be a U.S men's 4x100 relay controversy?
Do kangaroos live in the Outback?
5. Can Russian middle-distance diva Svetlana Masterkova, who won the 800 and 1,500 in Atlanta, win either of them here?
Funny you should ask. I talked to Svet on Thursday, and after five Achilles operations, including two last October, she's struggling. Or sandbagging. I think struggling.
6. OK, if Masterkova is off a little and Regina Jacobs is out, can Suzy Favor Hamilton sneak in there for a 1,500-meter gold?
She ran 3:57 in July in Oslo and has been training her eyeballs out since. It all comes down to tactics, historically not Suzy's strength. She says she's ready for anything. I've got a good feeling about her.
7. With no Michael Johnson in the 200 meters, does that mean U.S youngster John Capel can win it?
Theoretically, although Ato Boldon told me he thinks Capel will be lucky to make the final. Johnson says to watch out for 34-year-old Floyd Heard, who says he's running well because "I'm running for Floyd now." Well, I'm picking for Tim now, but I'm clueless. This race is wide open.
8. Speaking of MJ, will he break his world record in the 400?
Funny Games for Michael. All the attention is on Marion Jones in the U.S. and Cathy Freeman in Australia. Freeman runs right before Johnson on Monday night here, which makes Michael an afterthought. I don't think he likes that idea, although he's not saying so. His Seville record is 43.18, and if there's not much wind in Sydney (don't count on that happening), I'm thinking 43.10, and I'd love to witness a 42-point.
9. One race not to miss?
Men's 800 meters, definitely.
10. Will there be a drug controversy of some sort?
I'm afraid so.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Tim Layden is in Sydney covering the track and field competition for the magazine and CNNSI.com. Check back daily to read Layden's behind-the-scenes reports from Down Under.