While the top swimmers and gymnasts scoop up medals by the handful, few victories are harder-earned than in the heptathlon, a two-day test of stamina and versatility.
Britain has always taken to its decathletes and heptathletes, from Daley Thompson to Kelly Sotherton and Jessica Ennis. And the nation held Lewis in special affection for her mix of grace and grit, style and steel.
Having taken bronze in Atlanta four years earlier, Lewis arrived in Sydney in 2000 knowing, at 28, this would be her best chance of winning Olympic gold. A steady first day saw her third after four events, but ahead of world champion Eunice Barber, who later pulled out through injury.
But superb performances in the long jump and javelin saw her take command of the competition and enter the closing 800m with a narrow lead over Yelena Prokhorova.
With her left leg strapped up, Lewis could not stay with Prokhorova, and faced a nervous wait on finishing before receiving confirmation of her victory by a 53-point margin.