While she praises the strong pitchers from Japan, Australia and China, Fernandez is confident that she and the rest of the American staff—including Lori Harrigan, Danielle Henderson, Michele Smith and Christa Williams—will prevail in Sydney. "I strongly feel that I am pitching better than four years ago," says Fernandez. That's bad news for the rest of the world.
Who will light the torch?
The popular favorite Down Under is Australia's greatest Olympian, swimmer Dawn Fraser, who won eight medals between 1956 and '64. Wild card candidates include wheelchair-bound '56 sprint champion Betty Cuthbert, who has multiple sclerosis and would add Ali-style poignancy; and distance runner Ron Clarke, who as an athlete lit the torch in Melbourne in '56. Clarke didn't help his chances, however, when in late August he bashed the IOC and called the opening ceremonies "an extravagant waste of money"
Might there be a show of athletic wizardry, as in 1992 at Barcelona when an archer lit the cauldron with a flaming arrow? Unlikely—unless of course Greg Norman, one of several prominent Aussies who'll carry the torch in its final miles, pulls out a wood and drives a flaming balata into...oops, you all right, President Samaranch?