“Winning Olympic gold is the ultimate goal for any athlete,” said Kurt Angle. “So can you imagine how badly everyone wanted gold at the Centennial Olympics?”
The future WWE megastar overcame the tragic murder of his coach Dave Schultz in January 1996, not having a fixed training facility for a period, and fracturing two cervical vertebrae, herniating two discs, and pulling four muscles at the US Olympic trails to conquer heavyweight gold in freestyle wrestling and complete a career Grand Slam.
Andre Agassi, Michael Johnson, Wladimir Klitschko and Muhammad Ali also seized Olympic golds at Atlanta 1996 – the latter, who had lost the one he won as Cassius Clay at Rome 1960, was moved as he was presented with one during half-time of USA’s annihilation of Yugoslavia in the men’s basketball final.
Bookmakers had, pre-tournament, refused to take odds on Dream Team III conquering, but their was another would-be Dream Team who they were happily taking the occasional punt on.
Indeed, never had a Men’s Olympic Football Tournament been taken so seriously. Brazil, boasting Roberto Carlos, Juninho Paulista, Rivaldo, Bebeto and an at-the-peak-of-his-phenomenal-powers Ronaldo, were the favourites. Argentina, with Roberto Ayala, Javier Zanetti, Diego Simeone, Marcelo Gallardo, Ariel Ortega, Claudio Lopez and Hernan Crespo, were a close second.
Then came three very strong European sides. Italy’s squad featured Gigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta, Damiano Tommasi and boy wonder Domenico Morfeo; France sent Claude Makelele, Vincent Candela, Robert Pires and Sylvain Wiltord; and Spain selected Gaizka Mendieta, Ivan de la Pena, Raul and Fernando Morientes.