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Best performances in Athens

Posted: Monday August 30, 2004 10:09PM; Updated: Monday August 30, 2004 10:42PM
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ATHENS (Reuters) -- Following is a summary of the best performance and top performer in selected sports at the Athens Olympics which closed on Sunday:

ATHLETICS - TOP MOMENT - Music thundered through the Olympic stadium late in the evening programme, starting with the theme music from "Zorba the Greek" and continuing with classic rock anthems. The music coincided with the 20-minute buildup to the Games's most exciting race, the men's 100 metres. As the crowd clapped and sang, the athletes began to respond. Americans Shawn Crawford and Justin Gatlin jigged and gyrated to the music. The rest of the field joined in, spurring the crowd to clap louder. The atmosphere was comparable to one of the great prize fights at Madison Square Garden. Promoters, worried about the sport's declining popularity, will have taken note.

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TOP PERFORMER - Hicham El Guerrouj had done just about everything possible as a 1,500-mile runner before the Games. He had won the world title four times and held the world records for the 1,500 and its imperial equivalent the mile. But he had not won the Olympic gold in two Games and Athens realistically represented his last chance. The Moroccan went for broke after 800 metres, holding on to win an emotional victory. For good measure he then won the 5,000 to become the first man since Finn Paavo Nurmi 80 years ago to clinch the double.

SWIMMING - TOP MOMENT - The men's 200 metres freestyle was billed as the "race of the century" because it was the only event where Ian Thorpe, Michael Phelps and Pieter van den Hoogenband would go head to head. For once a race lived up to all the hype. Van den Hoogenband led for the first 150 but Thorpe powered past him on the last lap to win gold. The Dutchman held on for second and Phelps finished strongly to take third in a thrilling finish.

TOP PERFORMER - Michael Phelps won eight medals, including six golds, to match Soviet gymnast Alexander Dityatin's 1980 record for the most medals at one Games. The American teenager won both individual medleys and both butterfly finals as well as two relay golds. He also got a bronze in the 200 metres freestyle and another in the 4x100 freestyle relay, surprisingly won by South Africa.

GYMNASTICS - TOP MOMENT - "People Power" brought the men's horizontal bar final to a standstill for almost 10 minutes when the crowd jeered at the judges for a low score awarded to Alexei Nemov. The judges were forced to modify the Russian's score from 9.725 to 9.762. The move further dented the credibility of the world gymnastics federation in a week when they had to admit Paul Hamm was awarded the men's all-round gold in error.

TOP PERFORMER - Nemov's spectacular horizontal bar routine, which included six gravity-defying release and catch manoeuvres, during the apparatus final. It failed to get him an Olympic medal but the crowd reacted angrily on his behalf. His efforts at calming his legions of fans may be his Olympic swansong.

ARCHERY - TOP MOMENT - South Korean women's team one-point win against China in the final. Korean individual gold medallist Park Sung-hyun fired a bullseye for a maximum 10-point score with the last shot to clinch the title. The victory gave the Korean women their 11th straight Olympic gold medal to maintain their unbeaten record in the individual and team events since first competing in archery at the Games in 1984.

TOP PERFORMER - Australian individual bronze medallist Tim Cuddihy. He rode his luck through the preliminary rounds, and then caused the two biggest upsets in Panathinaiko Stadium. The 17-year-old schoolboy displayed nerves of steel to beat South Korean record holders Jang Yong-ho and Park Kyung-mo, both by a point. "I said to myself just stay focused, shoot and be cool."

BADMINTON - TOP MOMENT - Taufiq Hidayat's win in the men's singles final over Shon Seung-mo of South Korea. Capping a barnstorming performance during the whole tournament, Hidayat triumphed 15-8 15-7 with a superb display of smashes, flicks and athletic court-coverage.

TOP PERFORMER - Hidayat of Indonesia. Long seen as the bad boy of badminton, Hidayat sports a diamond-stud earring and has had many run-ins with national badminton authorities. He kept his cool in Athens to produce a string of breathtaking wins.

BASEBALL - TOP MOMENT - Cuba could almost touch the gold medals when Frederich Cepada hit a two-run homer in the championship game against Australia. Cepada defied baseball etiquette by flipping his bat, and taking a far too leisurely stroll down the first base line to admire his handiwork.

TOP PERFORMER - Cuban catcher Ariel Pestano was a hitting machine who helped Cuba slug its way to gold. Pestano batted over .500 In Athens, drove in big runs and was an anchor behind the plate that steadied a young Cuban pitching staff.

BASKETBALL - TOP MOMENT - Saurnas Jasikevicius hitting three straight long-range shots near the end of the game to ensure Lithuania's four-point win over the U.S. in the tournament's most exciting game. All of this from a guy who, according to all 30 NBA teams, is not good enough to play in the league.

TOP PERFORMER - Top scorer on his team with nearly 20 points a game, Argentina's Manu Ginobili started off the tournament in style, hitting a last second shot to beat world champions Serbia and Montenegro. His 29 points in the semi-finals ensured the U.S. would not take their fourth straight gold and in the final he led his team to another victory.

BEACH VOLLEYBALL - TOP MOMENT - Crowd atmosphere throughout the tournament. The night sessions were mostly sold out as the 10,000-strong crowd stomped their feet, chanted and revelled in the beach party atmosphere. The dance team and "water boys" spraying the crowd from hoses during the day added to the fun.

TOP PERFORMER - American Kerri Walsh, who led her two-person beach volleyball team to a gold medal without dropping a set in the competition. The towering Walsh dominated at the net with her blocks and was the top blocker of the tournament. One opponent said it seemed like Walsh was seven feet tall at the net.

BOXING - TOP MOMENT - Briton Amir Khan's quarter-final victory over seasoned Bulgarian Dimitar Stilianov, in which the 17-year-old Briton quite simply taught the European champion a boxing lesson to emerge as a unique talent.

TOP PERFORMER - Mario Kindelan. The Cuban master, 33, stopped the amazing run of Khan with a fine display in the lightweight final and will now retire with his reputation as the world's best pound-for-pound amateur boxer intact.

CANOE/KAYAKING - TOP MOMENT - Germany's Birgit Fischer, who came out of retirement less than a year before the Olympics, won her eighth Olympic gold medal in a thrilling race in the women's K4 500 at the age of 42 ahead of the world champions Hungary.

TOP PERFORMER - Hungary's Natasa Janics won two golds in just over an hour on the final day of the regatta, beating Germany's Birgit Fischer who was aiming for her ninth Olympic gold. To the delight of the Hungarian supporters, Janics then threw herself in the lake and danced for her fans.

CYCLING - TOP MOMENT - Britons Bradley Wiggins and Rob Hayles for their bronze medal in the men's madison. Their medal chances looked to have disappeared when Hayles fell halfway through the race but he picked himself and they toiled back through the field over 92 laps of the velodrome to finish third.

TOP PERFORMER - Flying Dutchwoman Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel suffered head, shoulder and hip injuries in a nasty fall in the women's road race but rode through the pain to win the time trial three days later. She took bronze in the velodrome in the 3-km individual pursuit to end her topsy-turvy career as the most successful woman rider in Olympic history.

EQUESTRIAN - TOP MOMENT - Three-day eventing. Germany won team and individual gold, then lost them an hour later when the grand jury gave Bettina Hoy a post-competition penalty in the show jumping. They then won them back again when an appeal committee overruled the grand jury. Three days later, Germany lost the two medals again when France, Britain and the United States won their appeal to sporting legal body CAS.

TOP PERFORMER - Irish underdog Cian O'Connor upset a field of experienced medal winners to take the individual show jumping gold while the Netherlands' Anky van Grunsven was in a class by herself in dressage.

FENCING - TOP MOMENT - When Damien Touya of France had his hand pierced by Keeth Smart of the U.S. with the scores tied at 44-44 and just one point needed by either side in the semi-final of the team sabre, no one expected him to continue. After a break, he bravely pulled on his glove and scored the winning hit. He then appeared in the final the same day and sealed gold.

TOP PERFORMER - Aldo Montano of Italy. The third generation of Montanos to win an Olympic fencing medal, the 24-year-old was the most compelling of all the fencers, mixing flair and passion with lightning quick reflexes as he won gold in the men's individual sabre.

SOCCER - TOP MOMENT - Iraq midfielder Emad Mohammed's spectacular overhead kick against Australia that took his team through to the semi-finals, triggering wild scenes on the Iraqi bench and celebratory gunfire across the violence-torn country. Iraq ultimately failed to win a medal but the team captured the hearts of the Greek public with their battling performances.

TOP PERFORMER - Boca Juniors playmaker Carlos Tevez was far and away the player of the tournament, his eight goals in six games helping Argentina end the country's 52-year wait for an Olympic gold medal. Fittingly, Tevez scored the winner as Argentina beat Paraguay 1-0 in the final.

EQUESTRIAN - TOP MOMENT - Australia's men's team had won three silvers and three bronzes but the gold was missing. In the final they fought for all they were worth but drew 1-1 against the Dutch. Extra time. Finally Australia won a penalty corner. All 11 men came up to the circle. The ball came out, rolled to Jamie Dwyer and was slammed into the net. The Olympic jinx was broken.

TOP PERFORMER - Dwyer re-started training four months ago after having his knee reconstructed. In Athens, he was one of the most impressive strikers, side-stepping opponents with the nimbleness of a dancer. The 25-year-old started with a hat-trick against New Zealand and ended by earning the gold.

JUDO - TOP MOMENT - It came from 17-year-old Ilias Iliadis who won the 87 kg for Greece, the youngest judo Olympic champion. He is Georgian by birth and speaks almost no Greek, and his exact age is a mystery after his coach and father invented a web of inaccuracies about when the family came to Greece.

TOP PERFORMER - Japanese dominated the winners' rostrum in Athens but the best fighter was probably a South Korean. Lee Won Hee dazzled once again with in the men's 73 kg division with his speed and economy of movement. It really was a case of blink and you miss him - unfortunately for his opponents, none could last a five-minute bout without blinking.

ROWING - TOP MOMENT - After a poor season marred by injury, Britain's Matthew Pinsent entered the Olympics in an untested crew and as the underdog for the first time in 13 years. In the final he led his coxless four to victory by the closest of margins and then broke down and sobbed on the podium.

TOP PERFORMER - Germany's Katrin Rutschow-Stomporowski. The German achieved her lifelong ambition of winning the single sculls in Athens. The final was expected to be close with the defending Olympic champion Ekaterina Karsten the favourite but Rutschow-Stomporowski rowed the perfect race to win comfortably.

SAILING - TOP MOMENT - Israel had waited 52 years for an Olympic gold and to hear their national anthem, Hatikvah, played. Windsurfer Gal Fridman sparked nationwide jubilation when he won Mistral gold in a tense final race. Exhausted by the effort, the Israeli raised his hands to the heavens in triumph before jumping off his board into the Saronic Gulf.

TOP PERFORMER - Ben Ainslie, the Finn gold medallist, for displaying the qualities that have made him the world's leading all-round dinghy sailor. Ainslie, gold medallist in the lighter Laser dinghy four years ago, had a disastrous opening day when he had only a ninth place and a disqualification on his scoresheet. The Englishman channelled his anger and frustration to leave his rivals in his wake.

SHOOTING - TOP MOMENT - American Matthew Emmons squandered a second gold medal when he shot at the wrong target of the three-position rifle event on his final shot. He was well in front but got a zero for hitting the target of an Austrian rival in the adjacent lane and ended up eighth. Emmons had earlier won the 50 metre prone position gold medal.

TOP PERFORMANCE - Russian veterans Mikhail Nestruev and Lioubov Galkina. Nestruev won gold in the 50-metre pistol and silver in the 10-metre pistol while Galkina got gold in the three positions rifle and silver in the 10-metre rifle.

SOFTBALL - TOP MOMENT - The U.S. team dominated the tournament with their pitching but a monstrous home run in the gold medal game from American Crystl Bustos was its climax. It was big enough to clear the wall in most baseball stadiums, which are about one-third larger than softball stadiums.

TOP PERFORMER - American Lisa Fernandez who picked up her third gold medal. Fernandez took to the mound in the semi-finals as well as the finals, getting wins in both games while also providing clutch hitting.

TABLE TENNIS - BEST MOMENT - China had won every gold at the past two Games and were odds-on to complete another clean sweep in Athens after claiming the women's singles, and the men's and women's doubles. Wang Hao was favourite to win the men's singles but could not match the brilliance of Ryu Seung-min, who won a thrilling final 4-2 to become the first South Korean to win the title since Yoo Nam-kyu in Seoul in 1988.

BEST PERFORMER - Zhang Yining won two golds including China's 100th in all sports since joining Olympic competition in 1984. Zhang overwhelmed North Korean Kim Hyang-mi 4-0 to win the women's singles after losing just two games in the tournament. She then teamed up with Wang Nan to claim the women's doubles, beating Korean pair Lee Eun-sil and Seok Eun-mi 4-0.

TENNIS - TOP MOMENT - The Athens air had cooled by 2:37 a.m. when Fernando Gonzalez sank to the ground, tears streaking his cheeks. His close friend and tennis doubles partner Nicolas Massu simply threw back his head and looked to the heavens. After a wait of more than 80 years, the Chilean pair had won the South American country its first gold medal at an Olympic Games.

TOP PERFORMER - Massu. A doubles medal ceremony, news conference and doping test deep into the early hours of Sunday meant the Chilean managed little sleep following his victory with Gonzalez before his singles gold medal match. He defied fatigue and Americans Mardy Fish to win 6-3 3-6 2-6 6-3 6-4.

WEIGHTLIFTING - TOP MOMENT - Greek Pyrros Dimas failed in his bid to make Olympic history by hoisting a record fourth gold medal but he claimed the bronze in the 85 kg division. On his final lift Dimas buckled under the attempt. He then slipped off his weightlifting shoes in a symbolic act of retirement and left the stage barefoot to a thunderous ovation.

TOP PERFORMER - 'Iranian Hercules' Hossein Rezazadeh extended his reign as the world's strongest man, defending his super-heavyweight gold medal with a jaw-dropping display of strength that included a world record of 263.5 kg.

WRESTLING - TOP MOMENT - The retirement of U.S. Greco-Roman big man Rulon Gardner after he settled for the bronze medal to add to his Sydney gold. After securing the medal he sat down in the middle of the ring, took off his shoes and turned his back on the sport, shedding a few tears along the way.

TOP PERFORMANCE - The performances of flamboyant Egyptian 96kg Greco-Roman strong man Karam Ibrahim who won his country's first medal in Athens. His convincing wins in a sport not known for dynamic performances were a breath of fresh air.

Copyright 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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