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Hearts laid bare as athletes tell all at Games

Posted: Monday August 30, 2004 10:09PM; Updated: Monday August 30, 2004 10:38PM
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ATHENS (Reuters) -- The Olympics is the athlete's chance for 15 minutes of fame. It is the perfect opportunity for that eloquent soundbite to sum up the ecstasy of victory, the heartache of defeat.

For all human emotions are laid bare at the Olympics where the hopes of a lifetime are packed into a moment.

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Here are some of the most memorable from Athens:

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"All these people who crucify me on TV are the same people who wanted to be photographed with me after every success. But after crucifixion comes resurrection," said disgraced Greek sprinter Costas Kenteris before withdrawing from the Games over a missed drugs test.

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"Devastated," said Briton Paula Radcliffe, slumping to the ground in a crumpled heap, her chance for marathon glory melting in the merciless Athens heat.

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"Our politicians are knee-deep in filthy urine," said Georgios Helakis, managing director of the Sportime daily on the controversy surrounding Greek sprinters Kenteris and Katerina Thanou

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"We are also already tuning down our communication around Thanou and changing billboards and outdoor posters wherever we can, so at our office building we are replacing Thanou with Ian Thorpe," said Jan Runau, Adidas' director of PR

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"Everybody else's family is here, why couldn't I bring my family," said American Beach Volleyball player Misty May, who scattered her dead mother's ashes on court after winning gold.

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"I was treated badly. They stripped me off ... and even looked into my backside. It was like the Gestapo method in World War Two," complained Hungary's discus gold medallist Robert Fazekas after refusing to give a complete urine sample

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"I swear, honestly I have never taken any banned substances, I swear on the lives of my two angels, my children," Greek weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis, in tears, told reporters after testing positive for higher levels of testosterone.

"I have passed many tests in my 10 years as a professional and I have never ever tested positive. I beg you, all Greeks, not to desert me."

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"Ah Yes. This all-mysterious getting into the zone thing. If I could bottle it I would be a millionaire," said American trap shooter Bret Erickson on the powers of concentration needed at shooting

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"I suppose they're lucky I'm not a sprinter because that's all over in a minute," said Australian 1500 metres swimmer Grant Hackett about e-mails he received from women who conceived during his marathon race triumphs

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"This sport will miss him, he has been a great ambassador for swimming," said U.S. coach Bob Bowman on the departure of Russian great Alexander Popov, who failed to win a medal in Athens.

"He's like a heavyweight fighter, they don't go down until they've been knocked out. If they lose a decision, they just keep getting back up but this might be the sign it's time for him to move on."

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"One would hope there would be no positive tests," said International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) technical director Sam Coffa after the news that five weightlifters had failed dope tests. "But the reality is this is the biggest sporting event on the planet and for sure you can't stop some idiot from doing a stupid thing."

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"I feel I'm capable of continuing but I feel it's the right time for me to go. I'm a woman, I'd like to have a family and I'd like to be loved," said Russian Svetlana Khorkina after winning gymnastics all-round silver in her final Olympics

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"I think I understand what they were going through. We are here at the birthplace of the Olympics and the defending champion is from Greece ... and he was not allowed to compete," said 200 metres champion Shawn Crawford after the race was delayed by Greek crowds booing in anger over Kenteris' absence

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"Why do people want to give a negative impression of sports?" Greece's 400 metres hurdles champion Fania Halkia asked when facing a barrage of questions about her rise to prominence

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"My victory has proved that athletes with yellow skin can run as fast as those with black and white skin," said Liu Xiang, winning the men's 110 metres hurdles in a world record-equalling time of 12.91 seconds

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"I was in God's hands and he knows what's best for me," said Badminton's Mia Audina, who is married to a Dutch gospel singer, after losing in the women's singles final.

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"I started running in high school. I found out if you run fast then you can get girls," sprinter Kim Collins from St Kitts and Nevis on why he first took up running

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"I was just treating it like another day at the gym." Britain's 17-year-old lightweight Amir Khan after he outclassed European champion Dimitar Stilianov of Bulgaria to make the quarter-finals of the boxing.

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Shawn Crawford, the fastest man in the world this season with 9.88, was the fastest 100 metres qualifier with 10.02, despite running in a back-to-front baseball cap and sunglasses.

"It's the first time I've worn a hat in competition but it's just a little sun visor on the back of my neck so my engine doesn't overheat," he said

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"I personally feel that I was the champion that night and what I did was absolutely incredible to come back from 12th place after the vault and I don't think that anyone should take that moment away," said U.S. gymnast Paul Hamm, who won gold in the Olympics men's all-round gymnastics title due to a scoring error.

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"There will be ice cream for the kid tonight," Iraqi boxer Najah Ali's American coach Maurice "Termite" Watkins said after Ali made a brave second-round exit

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"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," Belarussian Yuliya Nesterenko, surprise winner of women's 100 metres.

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"All I want to do now is stand in the corner and howl," said German equestrian team chief Reinhardt Wendt after Germany lost their two gold medals in the three-day event after a protest by France, Britain and the U.S.

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"I'm really unforgiving," said German Bettina Hoy, who lost two golds in the row. "I don't think I will ever be able to forgive for this.

"I don't ever again want to see the English, French and U.S. equestrian officials who took our gold medals away from us. And if I do run into them I'm going to completely ignore them."

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"Crap happens. I'll live to shoot another day," said American sharpshooter Matthew Emmons who was just one shot away from a second Olympic gold medal when he fired at the wrong target in the final round.

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"I will enjoy this. I will party. I will drink a lot of champagne," Christian Olsson of Sweden after winning the men's triple jump.

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"I did my job, at least I think both of us could have been first. It's over who cares?" Bulgarian gymnast Jordan Jovtchev after finishing 0.012 of a point behind Greece's Dimosthenis Tampako in the men's rings.

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"Do you know if I aimed for a 10, I am sure I would not have got 10. I resigned myself to the divine will, and then I was calmed down," South Korean Park Sung-hyun after firing a maximum score with the last shot to clinch the women's archery teams title 241-240.

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"I look like a girl! I cry the whole time! I can't believe it. I thought I was ready to deal with this kind of victory and pressure. I have to learn about that," said Spanish mountain biker Jose Antonio overcome by the emotion of his silver medal.

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"It's the second Golden Age of Pericles," said Yiannis Atzemian, owner of the Savas taverna near Monastiraki Square about the thousands flocking the city centre to party every night. "Business is up by 100 percent, I wish we had the Olympics every year."

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"I was going down the straight, the line just wouldn't come quick enough. I think my heart took me to the line," Britain's Kelly Holmes on winning the 800 metres, the first of her two golds.

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"I don't think there's anything more painful in the world," a tearful U.S. wrestler Sara McMann on how it feels to just miss out on a gold medal. McMann lost to Kaori Icho of Japan in the last minute of their gold medal bout in the 63 kg category.

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"Every time you visualised it, it was the gold." U.S. wrestler Patricia Miranda on trying to come to terms with the disappointment of winning bronze.

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Ethiopia's Ejegayehu Dibaba was convinced she had won the 10,000 metres until an official explained that she had been overtaken by China's Xing Huina in the last 100 metres.

Dibaba, who thought the Chinese woman was a lapped runner, was asked by an official as she approached reporters: "You are the one who came second, right?"

Dibaba replied: "No, first."

"You got a silver medal?" the official then said, to which she replied: "No, gold."

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"We've been using muesli to fight against nuclear weapons," said Karlheinz Steinmetz, trainer of German discus thrower Lars Riedel who won gold in Atlanta but ended seventh in Athens.

"It's a miracle Lars has been able to stay up at this level for so long and remain successful."

Copyright 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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