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Picture Perfect Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus...and he's got a nasty four-seam fastball. David Wells's perfect game was among the bountiful gifts delivered to sports fans this year by the champions gathered here


Jeff Gordon, NASCAR Driver of the Year
"When I was growing up, everybody hated the Celtics because they
always won. Jeff Gordon is going through that same thing. When
you think about it, there is no way possible that any person in
the entire world should dislike him. What has he ever done
except win? He's never in trouble, he's very religious and he's
always kicking butt. What more would you want in an athlete?"
--Charles Barkley, Houston Rockets forward

Tara Lipinski
Olympic Figure Skating Gold Medalist
"I was skeptical about someone that small, someone that young,
but she's just so good that pretty soon her lack of polish
didn't bother me. And by the end I was thinking, Wow! She
believes everything will go perfectly because it's always gone
perfectly. The prodigy is like a cartoon character who runs off
a cliff: Everything is fine as long as you just keep running.
Eventually after a few crashes, you learn to look down. She's
never looked down."
--Ken Dryden Hall of Fame goalie

Lindsay Davenport
U.S. Open Tennis Champion
"What I respect most about Lindsay is that she knew she wasn't
going to be Number 1 until she improved her conditioning. So she
got herself into shape, and now she wins those long, tough
matches. As an athlete, anytime you encounter another
athlete--male or female, in any sport--who combines hard work
with ability the way Lindsay has...well, you tip your hat."
--Joe Dumars Detroit Pistons six-time NBA All-Star

Hermann Maier
Olympic Super-G and Giant Slalom Gold medalist
"He has the potential to be the best all-around ski racer since
Jean-Claude Killy. He also has the potential to get seriously
hurt. His aggressive style is fun to watch--he's close to the
edge all the time. It remains to be seen what it takes to
destroy the Herminator, what his breaking point is. After his
crash at the Olympics, people think he's indestructible."
--AJ Kitt, U.S. Olympic skier

Marion Jones, No.1 in the world in the 100 meters, 200 meters
and long jump
"I met her when she was 16 years old. Sometimes you can just
tell, This is a very special person. That's the way I felt about
Marion. She had talent. Boy, did she have talent. And attitude,
too. It was just a matter of time. She doesn't have to worry
about winning gold medals. She just has to let it happen."
--Jackie Joyner-Kersee Three-time Olympic gold medalist

Fabien Barthez, World Cup champion goalie
"Going into the World Cup, everyone said Barthez would be
France's downfall because he plays so extreme. He has the
ability to grab the ball off a forward's head at the top of the
penalty box, but his tendency in the past was to bobble those
balls and let in easy goals. But in the World Cup he came out
for balls and held on to every one of them. He was like a
Michael Jordan out there."
--Julie Foudy, U.S. women's soccer player

Mark O'Meara, Masters and British Open Champion
"In football, if I got upset I could just cream a guy on the
next play, but anger doesn't work in golf. You have to be smart.
That's why I admire Mark O'Meara. He was criticized as somebody
who couldn't win the big one, but he took the heat and kept
playing, kept getting better, and look at him now. It's easy to
see why a young, volatile player such as Tiger Woods respects
O'Meara. We should all be more like him."
--Jim Brown, NFL Hall of Fame running back