- September 16 down the years
Queally streaks to gold
In the track cycling events at the Olympic Games, Britain's Jason Queally was a surprise winner of the one-kilometre time trial. He was 30 by now, hadn't concentrated on cycling until he was 25, and survived a life-threatening injury when two long splinters pierced his back and left him with 70 stitches. Here in Sydney, he thought he had a shot at the bronze, but gold was reserved for world record holder Arnaud Tournant of France or Australia's Shane Kelly. Queally started 13th of the 16 finalists and smashed his sea-level best by nearly two seconds, clocking an Olympic record 1 minute 01.609 seconds. Riding after him, Kelly managed only third place and Tournant was nearly three seconds slower than his world best. Germany's Stefan Nimke took the silver in a time 0.878 slower than Queally, who won Britain's first gold of the Games. Nimke won bronze four years later, when Tournant won silver - behind another British rider ( August 20).
If Queally produced the ride of these Olympics, there's no doubt about the race of the Games. Australia had one of their strongest swimming teams, and they were at home, so their rivalry with the Americans was at an all-time high. Right from the first night. The USA had won the men's 4x100 metres freestyle relay at every Olympics so far, beginning in 1964. But tonight they had to play catch-up after the first leg. Big bald Michael Klim gave Australia the perfect start with a world record 48.18 seconds, then the lead was swapped over the next two legs, leaving Gary Hall junior to take on Ian Thorpe for the gold. Now, the 17-year-old Thorpe was a star of the pool at these Games, setting a world record in the 400 metres free and winning another gold in the 4x200 relay. From that, you can see his strengths were over longer distances; he had very little pedigree at the 100 metres. Meanwhile Hall was a real speed merchant. He won five Olympic gold medals in his career, including one in this same relay four years before - but two others in the 50 metres freestyle, so maybe stamina came into play down this final length. Hall had a clear lead at the turn, but the Thorpedo caught him with 20 metres left and won by less than a yard. Australia's time of 3 minutes 13.67 knocked nearly two seconds off the world record.
One of the eagerly awaited welterweight bouts lived up to the hype. It was a classic match-up. Sugar Ray Leonard had everything a great boxer-puncher needs; Tommy Hearns was tall and lanky but his long arms gave him leverage for some of the most devastating punching ever seen. He was unbeaten in 32 pro fights, Leonard had lost just once in 31, to Roberto Duran ( June 20, 1980). Hearns was the WBC champion, Leonard the WBA. Caesars Palace in Las Vegas could have been sold out many times over. Standard thinking had it that Hearns needed to win quickly to win at all. He'd gone the distance a few times, but the vast majority of his wins were by knockout, usually early ones. If Leonard could survive the first few rounds, his skill and stamina would take over, right? Well, eventually. Going into the 14th round, Hearns was a) still there, and b) ahead on points. Quite how isn't clear. Leonard was protecting an eye damaged in training, but still dominated from the third round onwards, giving Hearns a real pasting in the sixth. Hurt for the first time in his career, forced to back off for once, Hearns surprised a few people, including Leonard, with his durability and ringcraft. He came back to win the 11th and 12th, which probably coloured the judges' cards - but conditioning did tell in the end. Hearns was swamped in the 13th and didn't survive a similar onslaught in the 14th, when the fight was stopped. A genuinely great encounter, it was voted fight of the year by Ring magazine. Leonard didn't lose another fight until his comeback in 1991 ( February 9), though he barely survived his second meeting with Hearns in 1989, earning a draw despite being knocked down twice. Hearns was still collecting world titles at various weights up to 1991 ( June 3).
The first Ryder Cup to include players from the whole of Europe. Two years earlier, Britain & Ireland had lost to the USA for the last time ( September 17). Now Europe lost for the first. Plus ça change, ay? Partly because 'Europe' was stretching it a bit: there were only two players from outside the British Isles, and although one of them was Seve Ballesteros, he was only 22 at the time. He and Antonio Garrido scored only one point from six matches, while US new boy Larry Nelson won all five of his. Europe were only a point behind before the last day, and drew level when Bernard Gallacher won the opening singles - but they won only two of the remaining eleven. They lost 17-11 and didn't win the Cup until 1985 ( September 15).
A day for fathers and sons in golf.
At Prestwick in Scotland, Old Tom Morris won the British Open for the third time in four years. The whole event took place in a single day, with three rounds of 12 holes each, and Old Tom wet round in 54-58-55 to beat Andrew Strath by two shots. In fourth place was Willie Park senior, who'd beaten Morris to the first ever Open in 1860 and again in 1863. No-one other than these two had won the event so far. Strath won it in 1865, then Park and Morris shared the next two. When Old Tom won it for the fourth and last time in 1867, he was 46 years old, the oldest ever winner of the Open.
Old Tom was succeeded by Young Tom. When Morris junior won the Open in 1868, he was only 17, still the youngest winner of any Major. Today in 1869 he won it again, this time by beating his aged parent into second place. They were level going into the third and final round, but then junior replied to senior's 53 with 49, the first sub-50 round in Open history. The Morrises were so good that the third-placed golfer was eight stokes behind Old Tom.
Willie Park senior had a junior too. On this same day yet again, Willie junior won the Open in 1887. The tournament was still being completed in a single day, but by now it was over two rounds of 18 holes. Bob Martin shot 81 each time, but Park scored 82 and 79 to beat him by one stroke. He won the title again in 1889.
The Golden Bear cub mauls them again. At Pebble Beach golf course, a crewcut 21-year-old called Jack Nicklaus regained the US Amateur title he'd won two years earlier. In today's final, he hammered Dudley Wysong 8 & 6. The following year, when Nicklaus won a professional tournament for the first time, it happened to be one of the Majors ( June 17).