THE BIGGEST headlines from the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games were always and remain about Cathy Freeman.
But Sydney 2000 was one of the most pivotal event in Ballarat sporting history.
So much investment was made into Australian sport and out athletes seized the opportunity that set them up further than the 2000 Games.
Ballarat has long made strong representation on big sporting stages, always bigger than expected for our population, and Sydney was no different. We were out in force on a bigger scale.
This is an Olympic city.
The fact Ballarat hosted Olympic rowing on Lake Wendouree for Melbourne 1956 is an integral part in This city's rich sporting fabric.
That amazing moment when Freeman lit the Olympic cauldron? In the lead-up Ballarat marathon man Steve Moneghetti's name was touted a hot favourite for the honour.
Moneghetti shared honours with Olympic shooter and Atlanta 1996 gold medalist Russell Mark to light a cauldron before a 15,000-strong crowd at City Oval when the torch travelled through Ballarat.
Mark had been set to light the cauldron alone but called on Moneghetti to join him, sparking widespread cheers and tears in the crowd.
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Moneghetti's stablemate Stephen McMahon, who was named in an athletics shadow squad for the Games, felt there was something extra special about the Olympic flame's time in Ballarat.
McMahon told The Courier the national divide in whether to support the games and questions about the Games' worth, suddenly gave way to a huge sense this was going to be really big in Australia.
He felt, Ballarat being an Olympic city, this pride surge was even stronger.
The biggest moment in Australian sporting history was when Freeman won 400m gold at Sydney Olympic Stadium in a night dubbed Magic Monday.
For Ballarat there were plenty of silver celebrations.
Shooter Russell Mark won double trap silver in the fourth of his six Summer Olympiads.
Rower Rachael Taylor lost her silver prize for the women's coxless pairs in a taxi and celebrated when an honest cabbie returned it. Taylor told The Courier in 2014 how much the medal continued to shape her life.
"Had I not won that (silver medal in Sydney), I don't think anybody would talk to me about rowing these days," Taylor said.
"The medal is what people want to talk about and what sets us apart."
The medal is what people want to talk about and what sets us apart.Rachael Taylor (rowing), Olympic silver medallist
And Anthony Edwards, who tells The Courier this week, that silver in the lightweight men's four felt like disappointment at the time. Edwards now looks to the medal as lesson for dealing with pressure he carried through life.
Our contingent also included Kellie Lucas and Peter Blackburn in badminton, volleyballer Tamsin Barnett before her beach days, and a string of Ballarat-trained exports.
This marked the start of an amazing wave in Ballarat sport to take this city into the 21st century for which we should remain incredibly proud.
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