Saturday: Unknown Nesterenko makes headlines
Posted: Sunday August 22, 2004 2:24AM; Updated: Sunday August 22, 2004 2:24AM
ATHENS, Aug 21 (Reuters) -- Belarus' Yuliya Nesterenko won the top women's athletics gold medal at the Olympics on Saturday, triumphing over a field stripped of many big names because of doping woes to win the 100 metres.
While Nesterenko sped in 10.93 seconds from being virtually unknown to making world headlines, Michael Phelps sealed a place in Olympic history by becoming the first swimmer to win eight medals at a single Games. Six were golds.
The Olympic dream inspired Iraq's footballers to a 1-0 victory against Australia, propelling them into the men's tournament semi-finals and triggering celebratory gunfire in their violence-racked country.
But the once invincible U.S. men's basketball team, winners at the last three Olympics, crashed to a 94-90 defeat by Lithuania and must beat Angola on Monday to ensure they reach the quarter-finals. It was their second defeat of the Games.
"I believe in God and I believe God saw all my efforts and helped me. Now I just want to go home to see my family and share this joy with them," an emotional Nesterenko told reporters.
Her sudden rise to prominence at the relatively mature age of 25 puzzled many, but Nesterenko had simple explanations.
"First of all we finally got our own apartment, me and my husband. Before we used to live with my parents and it wasn't comfortable," she said. "Second we tried to change completely my training methods. We added a lot of weightlifting."
She was the first non-American since the 1980 Moscow Games -- boycotted by the United States -- to win the women's 100.
The race was thrown wide open after defending champion Marion Jones of the United States failed to qualify and the first two finishers from last year's world championships, Americans Kelli White and Torri Edwards, were banned for doping.
Sunday's big race is the men's 100 metres where a series of unusually quick times heats have sparked expectations of a possible world record.
"It's a very fast track, we're going to have a party tomorrow," said defending champion Maurice Greene.
On the final day of swimming at the Games, Phelps won his eighth medal without swimming a stroke when the United States broke the world record in the men's 4x100 metres medley relay.
Phelps, 19, did not swim in the final after giving up his spot to a team mate but got a medal as he raced in the heats.
His eight trophies also made him the only athlete to match Soviet gymnast Alexander Dityatin's 1980 record for the most medals at one Games.
Phelps had come to Athens hoping to equal Mark Spitz's record of seven golds at a single Games but ended with one less.
"I just wanted to be the first Michael Phelps," he said. "I did something that no one's done before."
After day eight, the United States led the medals table with 19 golds, 15 silvers and 12 bronzes, followed by China with 18 golds, 13 silvers and 10 bronzes.
Japan held on to third place and Australia were fourth in the battle for supremacy at the world's top sporting event.
Doping was finally less of an issue on day eight of the Games but there were major sports rows over gold medal winners.
Germany lost their two gold medals in the equestrian three-day eventing competition when France, Britain and the United States won an appeal to sport's highest appeal body.
But Bettina Hoy, the German rider at the centre of days of
legal wrangling in the normally genteel sport, was unaware of
the verdict as she flew to Germany with the two golds she must
now surrender in her baggage.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled Hoy should
have suffered time penalties in Wednesday's show jumping final, costing her the individual gold and Germany the team title.
"I feel shat upon," said Reinhard Wendt, head of the German equestrian team.
France will now receive the team gold medal, while in the individual competition Britain's Leslie Law.
American Paul Hamm, who became the first American to win the Olympics men's all-round gymnastics title, should not have been awarded the gold, the sport's governing body FIG ruled.
But Hamm would keep his medal despite a scoring error which robbed South Korean Yang Tae-young of the title as FIG rules did not allow for a protest against judges' marks, it said.
The South Koreans say they will now take their case to CAS.
Shrugging off a 12-week lay-off caused by a mystery viral illness, Justine Henin-Hardenne beat Amelie Mauresmo 6-3 6-3 in a clash of the world's top two women's tennis players.
Saturday's tennis action spilled over into the early hours of Sunday when Nicolas Massu and Fernando Gonzalez won Chile's first gold medal at an Olympics in a five-set marathon that ended at 2:37 a.m. (2337 GMT).
They beat Germany's Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schuettler 6-2 4-6 3-6 7-6 6-4 after three hours and 43 minutes on court.
To an enthusiastic rendition of "God Save the Queen" from the crowd, Britain's Matthew Pinsent won his fourth successive Olympic gold as the British coxless four beat Canada.
"It's been immensely emotional all week," said Pinsent, whose stiff upper lip crumbled as he sobbed on the podium.
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