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Gatlin sprints from unknown to Olympic gold

Ralph Gowling | August 23, 2004 10:15 IST

American Justin Gatlin roared from virtual unknown to win the Olympic men's 100 metres race on Sunday, upstaging defending champion Maurice Greene and other more illustrious rivals.

"I've been dreaming about this since I started racing," said 22-year-old Gatlin, who won by one hundredth of a second after the 75,000 capacity crowd spurred on the eight finalists with rhythmic clapping to the theme tune from "Zorba the Greek".

"I can't even be emotional, I can't believe it's happened," he said, draping himself in the Stars and Stripes, beaming for the cameras and shaking hands with spectators thrilled to have witnessed his sprint into Olympic history in 9.85 seconds.

The closest Olympic 100 metres final in history produced an atmosphere resembling a classic heavyweight boxing title fight at an Olympics that has been plagued by doping scandals.

Francis Obikwelu of Portugal was second and Greene third as the first five over the line all broke 10 seconds.

Greene, two hundredths of a second behind Gatlin, was close to becoming the first man to finish first in successive Olympic 100 metres finals -- fellow American Carl Lewis retained his title in 1988 only after the disqualification of Ben Johnson.

"(Greene) was Olympic champion and a world record holder, so much respect to him," said Gatlin.

Greene was generous in defeat. "I hope (the fans) enjoyed the show we put on today," he said. "I knew it was going to be very tough ... I knew it was going to be very fast."

HISTORIC MARATHON

Japan's Mizuki Nogushi won the women's marathon, staged between Marathon -- the village that gave the event its name -- and the Panathinaiko marble amphitheatre in the centre of Athens where the modern Olympic Games were revived in 1896.

For favourite Paula Radcliffe of Britain, the race ended in tears after she led the field for a good part of the 42-km run.

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But Nogushi made a decisive break and Radcliffe finally broke down sobbing and quit after just over two hours. Noguchi won in two hours, 26 minutes and 20 seconds.

Sweden's Christian Olsson added Olympic gold to his world championship title with a convincing victory in the men's triple jump and compatriot and three-times world indoor champion Stefan Holm won the Olympic men's high jump title.

After the ninth day of competition China was back on top of the medals table with 22 golds, 14 silvers and 10 bronzes, with the United States a close second holding 21 golds, 21 silvers and 15 bronzes. Japan were third and Australia fourth.

Russia's Olympic women's shot put champion Irina Korzhanenko was stripped of her gold in the latest doping scandal to rock a Games plagued by the issue throughout.

She was watched with awe by millions around the world when she won a gold medal last Wednesday at the first Olympic event to be held at Ancient Olympia in 1,600 years and the first athletics competition of these Games.

Korzhanenko, 30, tested positive for a banned steroid.

Host nation Greece was shamed again at its own Olympics when bronze medal weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis was kicked out and stripped of his medal after failing a dope test.

His performance had triggered celebrations across the spiritual homeland of the Olympics, already embarrassed by Greece's top two sprinters pulling out after missing drug tests.

"ZERO TOLERANCE"

The International Olympic Committee, which has promised "zero tolerance" for drug cheats, expelled Sampanis from the Games for testing positive for high levels of testosterone.

In another scandal, fencing chiefs banned Hungarian referee Joszef Hidasi for two years after he mis-scored the men's team foil final, possibly costing China the gold.

It was the second case of a point's error involving medals at the Olympics. Errors in gymnastics scoring cost South Korea's Yang Tae-young a gold, which went to American Paul Hamm. South Korea is in the process of protesting to try to get the gold.

Chileans celebrated on the streets of major cities when Nicolas Massu lifted the men's singles tennis title to win only the country's second Olympic gold medal -- hours after playing a major role in winning the first.

Massu, 24, beat American Mardy Fish 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a match that lasted nearly four hours.

He and childhood friend Fernando Gonzalez had earned the South American nation's first gold in the men's doubles in another marathon match that spilled over into the early hours of Sunday after a Saturday night start.

A Chilean sports commentator choked on sobs of joy during a live broadcast from Athens on Massu's triumph.

Greece too had something to cheer about when Dimosthenis Tampakos flexed bulging muscles and rode a wave of national euphoria to claim the men's gymnastics rings gold.

The Olympics are supposed to be the greatest sporting show on earth, but they also prove even the best sportsmen and women are only human.

American sharpshooter Matthew Emmons was just one shot away from a second Olympic gold medal in two days when he fired at the wrong target in the final round.

Emmons, who had dominated the 50-metre rifle three-position target event, got a big fat zero and plunged to eighth.

"Crap happens," said the 23-year-old. "I'll live to shoot another day."

Athens 2004: The Complete Coverage

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