Women were the headliners in track

SYDNEY, Australia, AP

In track and field, the Sydney Olympics turned out to be the women’s games.

After years of runners named Michael or Carl or Ben dominating Olympic headlines, the biggest track stars at the 2000 Games had names such as Marion, Cathy, Stacy and Heike. The biggest embarrassment at the track also was a woman.

From Marion Jones’ unprecedented five medals to Cathy Freeman’s dramatic run for aboriginal pride, from Stacy Dragila’s victory in the inaugural Olympic women’s pole vault to 35-year-old Heike Drechsler’s long jump win, women were the big track winners at the 2000 Summer Games.

And those performances are helping persuade world track officials to keep increasing the women’s program. Three events — the pole vault, hammer throw and 20,000-meter walk — were added to the women’s program this time.

“I was against the new events. But the women’s pole vault was great. I’m still not crazy about the hammer,” Lamine Diack, president of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, said Sunday. “They’re even talking about having a women’s decathlon event.

I think we are headed to having an identical program for men and women.”

A Romanian woman managed another Olympic first. Mihaela Melinte, the women’s hammer throw world champion and world record-holder, was escorted off the field in front of tens of thousands of spectators because she had tested positive for the steroid nandrolone.

The 2000 Olympics produced no track and field world record. The only other time that happened was at the 1948 London Games, when the Olympics resumed after an absence of 12 years during World War II.