Asian women leave their mark
One was elated, another vindicated, a third just beamed with delight.
When Naoko Takahashi won the gruelling Olympic marathon in record time, she became the first Japanese woman to win athletics gold.
With her trademark smile, Takahashi led a series of Asian women into Olympic history in Sydney and was set for pop star status in marathon-mad Japan when she crossed the line in Sydney.
"She's going to be really popular," Japanese journalist Mayuko Maedo declared. "Everyone is going to love her to death."
China's Fu Mingxia became only the second woman to win four Olympic diving golds when she retained the women's three-metre springboard title in a thrilling duel with team mate Guo Jingjing.
Chinese women weightlifters won all four classes they were allowed to enter as their country overall had their most successful Olympics ever with a total 28 gold.
Never mind that some of the achievements by Asian athletes were not glittering with gold.
Vietnamese taekwondo champion Tran Hieu Ngan was beaten in the women's 57 kg class final, but she could not have been happier.
It was the first time taekwondo was included as an official Olympic sport, and her silver was the first Olympics medal ever won by her country.
"Tran Hieu Ngan becomes a national hero," the state-run Vietnam News declared after the taekwondo final.
The celebrations began immediately, with youngsters from Ngan's hometown Tuy Hoa, a poor fishing community, gathering in the town centre and chanting her name.
Ngan was set to collect US$20,000 from a corporate sponsor for bringing home Vietnam's first medal since the country began competing in the Olympics in 1980.
Karnam Malleswari was also thrilled with her weightlifting bronze, the first Olympic medal ever won by an Indian woman and a sharp reply to critics at home who had accused her of eating and drinking too much.
Malleswari was also hailed as a treasure and a role model by India's media, sports officials and politicians for her bronze, the only medal her country of one billion people could manage in a disappointing outing at the Sydney Olympics.
"They had accused me of being overweight and unfit," the dual world champion said of a critical magazine article published in India before the Games. "Now I have proved them wrong."
"I'm very happy that I've won the first (medal by a woman) for India," she said. "Too bad I couldn't win gold."
Sri Lankan runner Susanthika Jayasinghe also gave her country cause to celebrate wildly, not with Sri Lanka's first ever medal, but with its first in 52 years.
Fireworks exploded in Colombo after Jayasinghe raced for bronze in the women's 200 metres, running against U.S. champion Marion Jones, to finally follow up Duncan White's silver in the 400 metres hurdles in London in 1948.
Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga joined in the praise for the controversial runner, who had been tainted by a drug scandal and disputes with local sports officials.
"I am very proud that Susanthika has been able to realise a 52-year old dream," she said as the medal brought a measure of joy to the war-torn country.
Another woman looked set to break a 40-year-old medal drought for her tiny nation. Former Chinese national Jing Jun Hong was a surprise semi-finalist in the table tennis, raising hopes in her adopted homeland Singapore for only their second ever Olympic medal.
She just missed out but there was no sense of defeat.
"Coming fourth for Singapore was good," deputy chef de mission Eric Song said. "To fight for a medal after such a long time was something great for us."
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