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September 25, 2000
Cathy Freeman on centre-stagePaul Mehaffey
Cathy Freeman carries the hopes of the Australian nation on her shoulders in Monday's showpiece event at Stadium Australia.
Freeman, widely regarded as her Aboriginal people's top ambassador, lit the Olympic flame on September 15 in a symbol of reconciliation between Australia's European settlers and the indigenous Aborigines.
She must now produce on the track in the women's 400 metres final, the only athletics event in which the host nation have a genuine gold medal chance.
Her main rival, defending champion Marie-Jose Perec, fled home to France last week and twice world champion Freeman's main rival may be the impressive young Briton Katharine Merry.
The organisers have scheduled nine finals for Monday night to give added resonance to Freeman's race, although the wintry weather which disrupted Sunday's programme is forecast to remain for the early part of the final week of the Games.
If anybody can overshadow Freeman it is Michael Johnson who steps on the Olympic track for the last time in an individual event with the clear intention of producing something special.
Johnson, the only man to win the Olympic 200-400 metres double, would dearly love to become the first person to crack the 43-second barrier in the 400.
Given decent conditions in the unpredictable Sydney spring weather, he has shown in the opening rounds he is in shape to run a memorable race.
Two other Olympic greats will display their talents before a capacity crowd on Monday.
Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie, the finest distance runner in history, runs in the men's 10,000 metres and four times world champion German Lars Riedel defends his discus title.
The other athletics medal events will be in the men's 110 metres hurdles, women's pole vault, women's 5,000 metres, women's 800 metres and men's triple jump.
There will be five gymnastics medal events -- the men's vault, women's beam, men's parallel bars, women's floor and men's horizontal bar
The day's other medal events will be sailing's 49er, women's beach volleyball, men's weightlifting 105kg and men's table tennis singles.
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