Wednesday: Hoogie splashes away drug scandal
Posted: Thursday August 19, 2004 12:40AM; Updated: Thursday August 19, 2004 12:40AM
ATHENS (Reuters) -- "Flying Dutchman" Pieter van den Hoogenband on Wednesday became only the third man to win Olympic gold twice in swimming's top race, the men's 100 metres freestyle, splashing aside drug scandals at the Athens Games.
"I'm so happy," van den Hoogenband said as he joined swimming greats Johnny Weissmuller and Alexander Popov in the Olympic hall of fame.
Greece's top two sprinters Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou had quit the Games earlier after the host nation was rocked by the messiest drugs scandal to hit the Olympic movement since Ben Johnson was stripped of his 100 metres gold medal in 1988.
From Games officials to the athletes themselves, everyone tried to bring down the curtain on nearly a week of drama over the pair -- from missed drugs tests to a mysterious motorbike crash -- that Greece said threatened its image in the world.
"With a sense of responsibility and national interest I am retiring from the Olympic Games," Olympic 200 meter champion Kenteris said as he emerged from an International Olympic Committee (IOC) disciplinary hearing.
"They are out of the Olympic family," said IOC vice president Thomas Bach, adding that it was "good it was over."
But a new row erupted at the Games on another front when France said it was taking a battle for an equestrian three-day gold medal from the showjumping arena to sports judges behind closed doors on Thursday.
They will challenge a decision not to disqualify winners Germany over a dispute on timing involving Bettina Hoy, later the individual gold medallist, to sport's highest appeals body, the Court of Arbitration for Sport which is sitting in Athens.
On day five of the Games, the United States closed the medals gap with leader China, hotly pursued by Japan and Australia.
The Americans have 10 golds, 10 silvers and nine bronzes, while China have 11 golds, seven silvers and four bronzes.
More than 40 nations of the record 202 at the 17-day 28th Olympiad have won medals and more than 20 will take home gold.
While the big sporting action was in the swimming pool, Ukraine's Yuri Bilonog celebrated the return of the Olympics to the idyllic surroundings of Ancient Olympia by winning the men's shot put gold.
Competing under a flawless blue sky in the tree-lined grove devoted to Zeus, the European gold medallist equalled American champion Adam Nelson's opening mark of 2.16 to capture his first major title on a countback.
"This facility is absolutely world class. It has been for 3,500 years, so why would it change now?" Nelson said of the first competition at Olympia since the end of the ancient Games in AD 393 amid the scent of pine leaves and sound of cicadas.
Paul Hamm etched his name into history as he became the first U.S. man to win the Olympic gymnastics all-round crown.
Hamm overcame a fall from the vault to grab a last-gasp victory with the final routine for a total score of 57.823.
Van den Hoogenband retained the 100 metres freestyle title in a slick 48.17 seconds but just failed to beat the world record he set at the Sydney Olympics four years ago, although two other records fell.
The United States broke the oldest world record in swimming to win the women's 4x200 freestyle relay and claim their sixth gold medal in the pool.
The U.S. quartet of Natalie Coughlin, Carly Vollmer, Dana Vollmer and Kaitlin Sandeno wiped out the last record going back 17 years set by then East Germany with a combined time of seven minutes 53.42 seconds.
"Before we started the race I didn't realise the historic significance of the record," said Coughlin.
Australia's Jodie Henry smashed the women's 100 freestyle world record in the semi-finals to confirm her place as the favourite for Thursday's final.
Otylia Jedrzejczak won the women's 200 butterfly to become Poland's first Olympic swimming champion.
The day's first golds were minted in a $36 million dollar "washing machine" course powering the white water canoeing run.
Slovakia's Elena Kaliska won the women's kayak slalom and Tony Estanguet of France took the men's slalom gold.
Down by the beach, Tyler Hamilton whizzed by the parasols and pina coladas to prove there is more to U.S. cycling than his close friend Lance Armstrong, by racing to the time trial gold.
Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel of the Netherlands became the first woman in Olympic cycling history to win three gold medals on the road when she won the women's time trial.
Shell-shocked Americans Andy Roddick and Venus Williams joined men's top seed Roger Federer in the favourites' exodus from the Olympic tennis tournament.
"I'm not going to kill myself," Roddick said after his surprise 6-4, 6-4 third-round singles defeat to Chile's Fernando Gonzalez, as he looked ahead optimistically to the defense of his U.S. Open title next month.
Copyright 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.