Masterkova has benefited from training in Spain, where she lives with her husband, professional cyclist Asiat Saitov. "After the birth of my daughter, I gave everything I had," said Masterkova. "I trained to the hilt."
Masterkova had won Saturday in the same dying daylight in which 26-year-old Algerian Noureddine Morceli had righted a four-year-old wrong by winning a gold medal in the men's 1,500. In Barcelona, Morceli, the clear favorite, had been boxed in by two Kenyans and finished a desultory seventh. Through the Olympiad he remained the world's prepotent middle-distance runner, setting world records at 1,500 meters, one mile, 2,000 meters and 3,000 meters, ultimately chasing the gifted 22-year-old Venuste Niyongabo of Burundi up to an occasional 5,000, an event in which Niyongabo would win gold in Atlanta. "As long as Morceli is in the race, it is always second place," Niyongabo said before the Games. Through two laps Morceli fought outside from potential traps, but at the bell he was spiked in the right Achilles tendon by a falling Hicham El Guerroudj of Morocco. Bleeding, Morceli ran a 52-second final 400 meters to his overdue gold.
Early the next morning 5'2", 99-pound Josia Thugwane of South Africa won the closest marathon in Olympic history, three seconds in front of South Korea's Bong Ju Lee, who was just five seconds ahead of Kenya's Eric Wainaina. It was the first gold by a black South African. When Thugwane was asked what the victory meant to him, he responded, "It means the problems in our country are over. We are free to run."
There is a simplicity to his words that recalled the previous night, when the lights on the roof of the stadium illuminated track and field for the final time. Freedom comes both large, like the victory by Thugwane, and small. Torrence, finally free from the burden of expectation, anchored the U.S. women's 4x100-meter relay to a gold medal. High jumper Stefka Kostadinova of Bulgaria, finally free from the yoke of being the greatest women's high jumper in history without a gold medal, stood on the victory stand and wiped away tear after tear, never letting a droplet hit the grass. Jearl Miles brought home the U.S. women's 4x400-meter relay, dragging her spent body through the finish only to satisfy the crowd whose roar carried her. "I didn't want to let them down," she said. Even at the end, the noise would not die, celebrating not who was absent but who was there.