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Sports Review of the Year 2000
Rugby League

By BBC Sport Online's Ben Gallop and John Mathews

The Sydney Olympics set a new benchmark of success not only for Great Britain, but also for the Games as a whole. September 2000 was a golden month which will never be forgotten.

Team GB bounced back from the disappointments of Atlanta with an overall performance that had the nation beaming with pride and hosts Australia also had more than a few reasons to be cheerful.

Day one of the Games burst to life thanks to the remarkable Ian Thorpe, who triumphed in the pool. 'Thorpedo' followed up individual 400m freestyle success to lead the Australian relay team to a thrilling win over the US.

Having beaten Thorpe in the 200m, Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband confirmed his status as the star of the Sydney pool by seeing off the challenge of another big name, Alex Popov for gold number two. Van den Hoogenband's compatriot Inge de Bruijn made a splash in the women's event as the Netherlands gathered an impressive medal haul collection.

Great Britain matched their Atlanta gold medal haul on the very first day at Sydney as unheralded cyclist Jason Queally claimed a surprise victory in the 1km time trial... but all eyes were on Steve Redgrave.

As expected, Redgrave went on to confirm his place in the Olympic Hall of Fame with a fifth straight gold medal. Matthew Pinsent bagged a third title as Tim Foster and James Cracknell claimed their first.

Redgrave may have commanded the headlines, but a more surprising - and to rowing purists, more impressive - victory came the next day. The British crew produced a thrilling finish to win the men's eight - rowing's blue riband event - for the first time since 1908.

The athletics competition took off as Maurice Greene underlined his reputation as the world's fastest man with victory in the 100m.

Arguably the biggest confrontation of the Games - reigning Olympic 400m champion Marie-Jose Perec against Aussie idol Cathy Freeman - was scuppered when the French star pulled out in confrontational circumstances.

The moment that will define Sydney 2000 in years to come was witnessed when home heroine Freeman became the first Aboriginal to win track and field gold, to the delight of a rapturous capacity crowd.

Britain's new athletics queen was crowned as Denise Lewis, who shrugged off injury in the heptathlon to bravely battle her way to the nation's first track and field gold since 1992.

British triple jumper Jonathan Edwards made up for the bitter disappointment of silver in Atlanta by claiming gold with the biggest leap in the world this year.

According to many experts Michael Johnson is simply the greatest track star of all time and he continued his remarkable achievements when he became the first man to defend the Olympic 400m crown.

Her much-publicised aim was for five gold medals, but in the end Marion Jones had to settle for a mere three wins - and two bronzes. The phenomenal American might not have achieved exactly what she set out to do, but what a show she gave us.

One of the major shocks of the athletics came when red-hot favourite Hicham El Guerrouj was beaten to 1500m gold by Noah Ngeny.

American athletes found themselves at the centre of a drugs storm when it was revealed Marion Jones' husband CJ Hunter had tested positive for nandrolone.

There was a poignant tale from the gym when Romania's Andreea Raducan was stripped of her Olympic title after failing a drug test. The authorities declined calls to let her off after she protested that she had unwittingly taken a cold remedy containing a banned substance.

The most prolific medal-winner at Sydney was not Marion Jones or Ian Thorpe. He may not have grabbed much attention, but gymnast Alexei Nemov had a suitcase full of gongs to take back to Russia with him.

Many doubt that tennis should even be an Olympic sport - but no-one could deny the Williams sisters a golden double to cap a remarkable year for Venus in particular.

The final fling came for 'The Woodies' and everyone expected Aussie legends Woodbridge and Woodforde to bow out in golden fashion. But the unsung Canadian pair of Nestor and Lareau had other ideas as they denied them victory in their own back yard.

Russian superstar Alexandre Kareline, the Steve Redgrave of wrestling, was expected to just turn up at Sydney to claim another gold medal but Rulon Gardener proved a party-pooper of the most sensational kind.

British attention switched in Sydney from cycling to shooting to rowing to athletics. Then it was sailing's turn in the spotlight, with two golds on the penultimate day of action.

Not all Olympic swimming stories were about gold medals and record times. Eric "The Eel" Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea became a worldwide superstar thanks to a painfully slow solo effort.

British walker Chris Maddocks was also a huge hit with the Sydney crowd, finishing an hour behind the rest of the field.

Felix Savon joined the ranks of the Olympic boxing greats and became only the third man to win three gold medals in the ring. But the Cuban had to survive a late scare with a gash under his eye.

It took a comeback from two goals down and a penalty shoot-out, but Cameroon's victory over Spain in the football final ensured that the Olympic football title stayed in Africa.

It could have been called "Shoot-out Saturday". Hours after Cameroon's football win, another comeback and dramatic finish in the hockey. This time it was South Korea who came from two goals down - but the Netherlands won the battle from the spot.

On the last day of competition, Britain's Audley Harrison ignored a serious hand injury to defeat Kazakhstan's Mukhtarkhan Dildabekov and claim his country's first boxing gold since 1968.

Britain's greatest Games in 80 years was confirmed at the final hour as Stephanie Cook took gold, leading home bronze medallist Kate Allenby in a first double medal success for Team GB at Sydney... a fitting way to sign off in style.

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Ian Thorpe
Pieter van den Hoogenband
Inge de Bruijn
Jason Queally
Steve Redgrave
Rowing British eights crew
Maurice Greene
Marie-Jose Perec
Cathy Freeman
Denise Lewis
Michael Johnson
Marion Jones
Noah Ngeny
CJ Hunter
Andreea Raducan
Jonathan Edwards
Alexei Nemov
Williams sisters
Nestor and Lareau
Rulon Gardener
British sailing
Eric "The Eel" Moussambani
Chris Maddocks
Felix Savon
Cameroon's football win
Netherlands hockey
Audley Harrison
Stephanie Cook