MADISON CROWDS BEAT GREAT OUTDOOR GAMES ATTENDANCE RECORD

MADISON, Wis. - When the gates finally closed on ESPN Great Outdoor Games V presented by Dodge, nearly 70,000 fans had crisscrossed the 9-acre Alliant Energy Center grounds to watch lumberjacks, sporting dogs, anglers and target sports.

"This is a record year for attendance and we can't wait to watch all the coverage on ESPN and ABC beginning this Wednesday, July 14th," said Great Outdoor Games Director Eric Matijevich. "The crowds were large and very enthusiastic and our staff was very focused on conducting great competitions and lots of activities for people to do."

The final attendance tally was 68,424, which exceeded the last year's crowds in Reno, Nev., by 10,833.

"We appreciate all of the existing fans who came out to enjoy the Games in Madison and the new ones we got to introduce to this great event," Matijevich said.

BIG AIR: World Record Jumper Reclaims Lost Gold Medal

MADISON, Wis. - Little Morgan finally got a chance to get back to the top of Big Air at the ESPN Great Outdoor Games presented by Dodge.

After taking the gold medal with a world-record jump in 2002 and dropping to the silver tier of the podium last year, the 5-year-old black Labrador retriever leaped 23 feet, 1 inch, in the final round of Big Air on Sunday to grab the gold in the final event of this year's Games.

He had to wait a little longer than expected as rain delayed competition for about 30 minutes, and then recalibration of the Big Air scoring system caused an additional 45-minute wait.

After the wait, Little Morgan became the most decorated Big Air competitor with a total of three medals in three years of competition.

"That's a record we're really proud of," said handler Mike Jackson of Shakopee, Minn. "Usually a dog will win and then drop back. But we've managed to stay up there."

Sly, a 75-pound Chesapeake Bay retriever handled by Ken Butler of Tulsa, Okla., jumped 22-6 to grab the silver. Most handlers consider a dog Sly's size to be too heavy for Big Air competition, but Sly could help change that notion.

Sparky, a black Lab handled by Milt Wilcox of Huntington Woods, Mich., claimed the bronze with a jump of 20-11. Wilcox was the winning pitcher for the Detroit Tigers in Game 3 of the 1984 World Series.

Last year's gold medalist, Skeeter, failed to qualify for the four-dog final.

"We're a little disappointed, but we trained really, really hard this year," said handler Terry Casey of Parker, Texas. "We knew the competition was going to be a lot better this year. Training is starting to get a lot more specialized. A lot of people are starting to train specifically for Big Air."

In the final round on Sunday, Little Morgain failed to surpass the 24-foot mark, which he did in the semifinal round earlier in the afternoon. At no time in the competition did he close on the 26-foot, 6-inch record that he set in 2002, which still stands.

"The most important thing is to keep it in front of his nose," Jackson said.

A throwing error also caused Beau, who challenged Little Morgan in preliminary rounds with a jump of 24-2, to miss out on a medal.

Handler Chris Piacun of Metairie, La., failed to toss the training dummy on Beau's first jump in the finals, resulting in a 17-5 mark, and Beau's second and final jump went 20-2 after Piacun threw the dummy late.