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Manchild in the Promised Land


It's hard to believe that at the tender age of 17, before even
competing in an Olympics, swimming ace Ian Thorpe has already
crossed over from the golden realm of champions into the
ethereal pantheon of Australian sporting heroes. But crossed
over he has. Ask almost any Australian, rich or poor, young or
old, taxi driver or red-dirt farmer and they will affirm this
truth to be self-evident. What's not so evident is why many more
certified champions--from Rob Laver to Herb Elliott--are not
automatically accorded the same status. The line that separates
true heroes from mere champions is hazy at best, and extremely
contentious. It has little to do with number and everything to
do with public character, a human dimension beyond the
steeliness of athletic achievement, perhaps a flawed nature, but
in any event something ordinary mortals can identify and connect

This distinction makes a fitting theme to our Champions issue
this year as we start to turn our attention to the athletics
(rather than the nagging controversies) of the Olympics. In the
end what makes the Games so compelling has more to do with the
drama of the events and the heroic characters who play out their
dreams--and ours, vicariously--in competing. You need only read
the amazing story of Moroccan champion runner Hicham El
Guerrouj(page 60), who tripped and finished dead last in the
final of the 1500-metre event at Atlanta, to understand the
Greek tragedy that often figures so deeply in the motivations of
true heroes.

Needless to say, we will be all over the Olympic drama as it
unfolds this year. Come early September, look for Sports
Illustrated to bring you the most authoritative form guide on
the top medal contenders in our eagerly awaited Olympic Preview
Issue. And then our Olympics Commemorative issue will be out in
October, celebrating the winners and losers, the best and worst
moments, and the agony and the ecstasy of the Olympic Games.
Meantime, sit back and enjoy the ride.

Thomas Moore
Australian Editor

COLOR PHOTO: GREGG PORTEOUS/NEWS LIMITED GLORY DAYS The Thorpedo basks in adulation after smashing world records at the Australian Olympic trials last month.