“All these people waiting in the stadium … I couldn’t speak, I didn’t know where to go.”
Asked if she needed anything, Saville’s answer was pure desolation. “A gun to shoot myself.” This felt like a moment we’ll remember for a long, long time.
But elsewhere – the joy of victory! Within hours of each other, Jenny Armstrong and Belinda Stowell won the women’s 470 class event, followed by Tom King and Mark Turnbull in the men’s equivalent.
These were Australia’s first gold medals in sailing since 1972 – and the first ever by an Aussie woman. What better place to do it than the glorious Sydney Harbour?
Freeman upstaged as Jones does the sprint double
It feels like the whole country is still on a high after Cathy Freeman’s 400m gold the other day. But Australia’s newest hero had to suit up again for the 200m – where she was upstaged by American Marion Jones, who has spent most of her week supporting her shot-putter husband CJ Hunter as he denied doping allegations.
Jones claimed the win in 21.84 seconds, making her the first Olympic athlete in 12 years to do the sprint double. Freeman finished back in seventh place, with Melinda Gainsford-Taylor sixth.
“There was some tough competition out there,” was the sum total of Freeman’s post-race analysis.
Perec breaks her silence
Still on Cathy, and her great rival Marie-Jose Perec – who, you’ll recall, fled Sydney just before the Olympics – has detailed her Australian experience in an interview with French sports newspaper L’Equipe.
“There wasn’t a day that I wasn’t tracked like an animal, truly,” she said. “People made threatening gestures. Several times I went to a supermarket and each time there were problems. I was truly afraid, that’s what made me leave.
“The only thing I am 100 per cent sure of is that I will never again set foot over there.”
We’ll see if she sticks to that. As for Freeman’s instantly-famous win in the 400m? “I think I would have run less than 49 seconds,” she said – comments which drew a pretty strong rebuke from Australian head coach Chris Wardlaw, who said Perec was “not here and not relevant, and she is not worth commenting on.”
Ciggie-smoking, pizza-eating legend claims silver
Sticking with the world of athletics, and Australia has a new cult hero: ‘Jumping’ Jai Taurima, who claimed silver in the men’s long jump.
The 28-year-old is the rarest of units. He smokes a pack of cigarettes a day, eats pizza twice a week, spends hours upon hours playing video games and once vomited on the Prime Minister’s lawn in Canberra after what Herald writer Roy Masters described as an “evening of celebration”.
Taurimo took the lead with his second-last jump of 8.49m, but was overtaken at the death by Cuba’s Ivan Pedroso.
Boomers beat Italy but Hockeyroos lose on penalties
It was a mixed night for some of Australia’s team sports contingent. The Kookaburras – the men’s hockey team – were beaten 5-4 on penalty strokes by the Netherlands after a 0-0 draw in the semi-final.
Poor Brent Livermore took the final penalty, but his effort was batted away by Dutch ‘keeper Ronald Jansen, and he crumpled to the ground in despair.
Our basketballers also had a nervy finish but managed to come up with the goods in a 65-62 triumph over Italy in the men’s quarter-finals. Veteran Andrew Gaze was the main man for Australia with 22 of his 27 points coming in the second half, including two free throws with 11 seconds on the clock to get the hosts home. The Boomers will now take on France in the semis.
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.