Four years ago, two of the fastest runners in the world sat dejectedly, nursing a wounded foot and wounded pride, and watched the Olympics rush by them.
On Saturday, Marion Jones and Maurice Greene stood atop the medal podium as champions of the Games' blue-ribbon event. Their long wait was over -- in less than 11 seconds.
Jones and Greene affirmed their status as the world's fastest humans with convincing victories in the 100-meter dash. It was the first time Americans swept the shortest sprint in Olympic track and field since 1988, when Carl Lewis and Florence Griffith-Joyner won.
Jones' race was remarkable for the display of utter domination. As she pulled away to a four-meter lead, the rest of the field seemed to brake. Her time of 10.75 seconds was the year's best.
A sellout crowd of 110,000 at Stadium Australia groaned in awe as the gap between Jones and the runners behind her grew to two body lengths, a distance usually seen in longer races. Jones' winning margin of .37 seconds was the second-largest in Olympic history in a men's or women's 100-meter race. Australia's Marjorie Jackson won by .38 at the 1952 Helsinki Games.
Running into a slight headwind, Greene calmly picked off his opponents, seized command at 70 meters and crossed the line in 9.87 seconds, a blink off his season-best of 9.86 and eight-tenths slower than his 1999 world record of 9.79. Greene, who looks and runs like a fullback, pounded down the track to the 15th sub-10-second 100 meters of his career.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself," said the loquacious Greene, who had guaranteed a victory. "This week has been very tough for me, but I didn't show how nervous I was."
Ato Boldon of Trinidad and Tobago, who trains with Greene and selected him to be best man at his wedding, was second in 9.99. Obadele Thompson of Barbados was third.
Jones began her quest for an unprecedented five gold medals by making her opponents look like they were running in sand.
"I knew I was racing for second place," said Ekaterini Thanou of Greece, who got the silver medal.
Tayna Lawrence of Jamaica had the fastest start and took the bronze. Merlene Ottey of Jamaica, competing in her sixth Olympics at age 40, finished one one-hundredth of a second behind Lawrence.
Jones, 24, has won 35 100-meter races in a row since losing to Ottey in 1997.
Jones, former point guard for 1994 NCAA champion North Carolina, had to postpone her Olympic aspirations in 1996, when a broken foot she suffered while playing basketball kept her out of the Olympic trials.
Greene's race was preceded by the usual stares and glares of the twitchy showmen who run the 100. Greene had only the sixth-fastest reaction time to the gun but he didn't panic, maintaining his "drive phase" crouch and not looking up from the ground until his 24th stride.
After he crossed the line, Greene stuck out his tongue -- a nervous habit, he said. He and Boldon kneeled in prayer.
Greene then took off his shoes and threw one into the stands and tossed the other to a spectator. He completed his victory lap in socks. On the medal stand, his face contorted and he held back tears.
Greene didn't even advance to the final of the 100 at the 1996 Olympic trials. He drove from his home in Kansas City, Mo., to the Atlanta Games and watched the 100 from the stands. He vowed to be in it four years later.
While Greene and Jones were reaping their first Olympic gold medals, other great champions were building on their past collections and making history.
Jan Zelezny of the Czech Republic became the first athlete to win the men's javelin at three successive Games. He did it by breaking his own Olympic record with a throw of 295 feet, 9 1/2 inches.
Including his silver medal at the 1988 Seoul Games, when he lost by six inches to the final throw of Finland's Tapio Korjus, Zelezny now has been on the medals podium in each of the last four Olympics.
Naoko Takahashi, the 1998 Asian Games champion, pulled away from Romanian Lidia Simon with about four miles to go and became the first Japanese runner to win the women's marathon.
U.S. athletes Michael Johnson and Cathy Freeman easily won second-round heats in the 400 and advancing to the semifinals.
In the men's 400, Johnson won his heat in 45.31 seconds. For the second straight round, Alvin Harrison had the best time -- he won his heat in 44.25. Also reaching the semifinals was the third American, Antonio Pettigrew.
American Allen Johnson, the defending gold medalists in the 110-meter hurdles, ran through a hamstring injury to win his first heat. The hurdler went directly from the track for more treatment on his injured left leg.
He was joined by teammate and 1996 silver medalist Mark Crear, along with American Terrence Trammell. World champion Colin Jackson of Britain also advanced.
A pair of Americans reached the discus finals: reigning world champion Anthony Washington and teammate Adam Setliff. A third American, John Godina, was eliminated in qualifying just two days after winning a shot put bronze.
In the women's 800 semifinals, Hazel Clark advanced to the final. Older sister Joetta Clark-Diggs and sister-in-law Jearl Miles-Clark both were eliminated.
World record-holder Stacy Dragila of the U.S. made the final of the first Olympic women's pole vault.