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Sports 2002 - A Year for Breaking Records - 2002-12-27

Records were a big part of the sports world in 2002, with world marks falling like autumn leaves in athletics and swimming. There were many top stories in 2002 from the pool and track as well as highlights in cycling, auto racing, boxing and more.

To nearly everyone's surprise, American sprinter Tim Montgomery set a new world record in the men's 100-meters - 9.78 seconds. Montgomery shaved one-100th of one second off the former mark held for three years by compatriot Maurice Greene. Montgomery set the new record at the IAAF Grand Prix athletics meet in Paris on September 14.

Khalid Khannouchi of the United States shattered his own world record at the London Marathon. The Moroccan-born 30-year-old clocked a time of 2:05.38. That beat the mark he set in Chicago three years ago by four seconds.

Paula Radcliffe of Britain shattered the world mark in the women's marathon, as she capped a sensational year by winning the Chicago Marathon on October 13. She covered the 42-kilometer route in 2:17.18. That was 89 seconds faster than the previous world best set by Catherine Ndereba of Kenya last year. Radcliffe also won the April 14 London Marathon in her debut race at that distance.

The IAAF also ratified Belarussian Alesya Turova's record of 9:16.51 seconds in the women's 3,000 meters steeplechase. She set the new mark in July at a meet in Gdansk, Poland.

A plethora of world records was the big story in swimming. Starting with British swimmer Zoe Baker's new mark of 30.53 seconds in the 50-meter breaststroke January 4 in Durban, South Africa, dozens of records fell in 2002. In this case, Baker broke her own record by 0.02 seconds just 10 days later at the World Cup short course meet in Italy. American swimmer Ed Moses was a top performer at January's World Cup short-course meet in Stockholm, Sweden. He broke three records in just two days, with world marks in the men's 50, 100, and 200-meter breaststroke.

In April, Swedish swimmer Emma Igelstrom nailed three world records at the world short-course championships in Moscow, with new marks in the 50 and 100-meter breaststroke. She also helped Sweden break the record in the medley relay.

On July 30, Australian superstar swimmer Ian Thorpe broke his own world record in the 400-meter freestyle event at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester England. But afterwards, the man known as "the Thorpedo" decided to take a break from the pool.

In mid-October he returned to training with a new coach, Tracey Menzies, saying he had a renewed enthusiasm for swimming. Thorpe said he had contemplated quitting the sport because he was bored with training. But bored or not, in 2002 he was arguably the world's greatest swimmer. He won six Commonwealth gold medals in Manchester in July and another five at the Pan Pacific Championships in Japan in August. He is also the world record holder in the 200, 400 and 800-meter freestyle events.

In mid-November, swimming's world governing body, FINA, announced that swimmers who set world records will now automatically be tested for the banned endurance enhancer EPO, or erythropoietin, and related substances.

The year ended as it began, with more world records. In early December, German swimmer Thomas Rupprath broke the world short-course record in the men's 100-meter backstroke in World Cup qualifying heats in Melbourne, Australia. It was his second world record in a week, after breaking his 50-meter backstroke mark in Shanghai, China.

In cycling's most prestigious event, American Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France race for the fourth straight time. He claimed the title by an overall margin of seven minutes and 17 seconds.

The Texan crossed the finish line on July 28, wearing the bright yellow leader's jersey he had worn since taking control of the race 10 days earlier. The 30-year-old cancer survivor became the first American to win the race four times, and is just one victory short of equaling the event record of five titles. Armstrong gave credit to his U.S. Postal Service teammates.

"The key in cycling is to never be alone," he said. "Only when you absolutely have to be - so that's in the time trials when you have to be alone, and if you attack in the final stages of an uphill finish. [Those are the] Only times to be alone. Outside of that, you always want to be with somebody, if not two or three guys. And you know, I rode this whole race with teammates. Very rarely was I alone."

Spain's Joseba Beloki was second overall, while Raimondas Rumsas of Lithuania took third place, eight minutes and 17 seconds behind Armstrong. However Rumsas' wife Edita was taken into custody as she drove toward Italy on the final day of the race, after French police found doping substances in the trunk of her car.

Raimondas Rumsas denied taking any drugs during the Tour de France and was tested twice with negative results. However, his Lampre team suspended the Lithuanian cyclist until the investigation is concluded. Edita Rumsas was held in a French jail until October 11, when she was released on bail.

In boxing, world champion Lennox Lewis retained his heavyweight crown by knocking out former champion Mike Tyson of the United States in the eighth round of their June 9 title fight in Memphis, Tennessee.

The British boxer dominated the bout from the outset, pummeling his challenger for the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation titles. Tyson was knocked to the canvas two minutes and 25 seconds into the eighth round.

"I said that I was going to discipline Mike Tyson in the ring and that's what I aimed to do," Lewis said. "I went out there and did it. You know I got off to a sticky start , but then Emmanuel Lewis told me to settle down, so I settled down. And after that, I was just showing the world that I was a pugilist specialist."

Lewis, 36, now has a record of 40 wins, two losses and one draw. Tyson has 49 wins, four losses and two no-contests.

Meanwhile, 29-year-old former world champion Felix Trinidad of Puerto Rico retired from the ring July 3, ending a career that included world titles in three weight categories. The boxer made the decision after learning there was little chance of a rematch with American Bernard Hopkins, the only man to beat Trinidad in his boxing career.

Trinidad finished with 41 wins and one loss, including 34 knockouts. He won the titles in the welterweight (67 kilogram), super welterweight (70 kilogram) and middleweight (73 kilogram) categories.

On the race track, German driver Michael Schumacher and his Ferrari team dominated the Grand Prix circuit in 2002. Schumacher won an unprecedented 11 races and now holds records for the most wins in one season, total Grand Prix wins, and most championship points. The Ferrari team won 14 races this season.

The German driver has just one more milestone to reach - a sixth drivers' title. He clinched a record-tying fifth Formula One championship by winning the French Grand Prix on July 21. The success by Schumacher and Ferrari led the International Automobile Federation to consider changes in Formula One rules to even the playing field. Officials were concerned that fans will decide Ferrari's dominance has made Formula One racing boring.

Brazilian driver Helio Castroneves successfully defended his Indianapolis 500 title on May 26, as he won the 86th running of the race in a controversial finish.

Castroneves took the lead in the 176th lap and had slowed down to conserve fuel. Canadian Paul Tracy made his move to pass Castroneves at the same time two other drivers collided, bringing out the yellow caution flag.

Officials ruled Tracy had passed Castroneves under the caution and gave the Brazilian the win, making him the first back-to-back winner at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since Al Unser, Sr., did it in 1970 and 1971. Castroneves was thrilled.

"This is not the same as last year," he said. "Last year was harder because I had much more of a challenge and I didn't know if I [should] ease off or keep going. Well guys, I did it again. I did it again! This is unbelievable! You guys - amazing I love you! Wooo!"

Tracy's team filed a protest, but Castroneves' victory was upheld by the Indy Racing League five weeks later.

In other auto racing news, Audi won its third straight title at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France on June 16. And actor Jason Priestly was seriously injured August 11, when his open-wheel car spun out of control on a turn and hit the wall nearly head-on during practice for the Infinity Pro Series at the Kentucky Speedway. The star of the Beverly Hills 90210 television series needed surgery for a broken back and feet, after his accident in a developmental circuit for the Indy Racing League.

In the National Hockey League, the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup championship by beating the Carolina Hurricanes on June 13 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The Wings clinched the best-of-seven game finals 4-1, with four straight victories after dropping the opening contest.

It was the third time in the last six seasons that Detroit has won the NHL championship, and the team's 10th Cup victory overall. The team had last won in 1998 and 1997.

The Red Wings' path to the finals saw them defeat the Vancouver Canucks four games to two in the opening round, then dominate the Saint Louis Blues four games to one in the second round. Detroit's biggest test came in the Conference finals. The Colorado Avalanche forced a decisive seventh game, where the Red Wings crushed the Avs seven to nothing to advance to the Stanley Cup finals.

Detroit goaltender Dominik Hasek said winning the Cup was the crowning moment of his career. "The biggest dream was to win the cup, you know, and I've done it," he said. "So there is the question of if I want to do it one more time, because all the individual trophies - I am proud of them. But there is no better feeling than to lift the silver Stanley Cup."

But less than two weeks after helping the Red Wings win the NHL championship, Hasek announced his retirement. The 37-year-old Czech native said that winning the Stanley Cup trophy was everything he could have asked for.

There was sad news from the world of cricket. Disgraced former South African captain Hansie Cronje was killed in a plane crash on June 1. He was on board a small plane that went down in rugged mountains near the airport in George, South Africa, during bad weather. Cronje, who was banned from professional cricket for life nearly two years earlier for his role in a match-fixing scandal, was 32 years old.

Part of VOA's Yearend Series