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Sautin nearing the end of the line
August 25, 2004 15:25 IST
Last Updated: August 25, 2004 15:26 IST
Dmitry Sautin, the great warrior of diving, is weary and after winning a record seventh Olympic medal he reckons that Athens may prove to be his final Games.
The 30-year-old Russian, who has been at the top of the diving world for a decade, gave battle once more after a year bedevilled by injury and came away with his third three-metre springboard bronze in four Olympics.
For many a long year offering almost lone defiance to the dominant Chinese, Sautin for many is simply 'The Man'.
His Olympic battle honours also include platform gold in 1996 and bronze in 2000 plus synchronised highboard gold and synchronised springboard silver.
"It's really hard for me to get across the state of bliss I'm really in," an interpreter quoted a not exactly blissful-looking Sautin as saying. "This is my seventh Olympic medal. I think that for a career, that's not bad."
Add to that world highboard champion in 1994 and 1998, three-metre champion in 1998 and 2001 and three-metre synchronised gold medallist in 2003 and, on top of that, a stack of European titles and the shaven-headed battler would appear entitled to rest and tend his wounds.
"This year didn't turn out very well," Sautin said. "I was sick at the beginning of the year, my shoulder was out of joint.
"For five months I wasn't able to do anything. Thank God I was able to come back and win the bronze medal, which was extremely important to me
Sautin, who no longer competes on the highboard after the pounding he has received over the years, said he thought the end of the line was near.
"I don't know if this is my last performance, perhaps it's my last Olympics," he said.
"My body has suffered a lot of scars, a lot of operations, my bones are not as strong as they used to be. In general my health is not what it used to be, certainly not what it was eight years ago.
"I've had a lot of aches and pains. This year was really too much. I had to go through a long convalescence period."
Peng Bo, winner of the three-metre gold, praised the man beside him.
"Not only from the technical point of view but also from the psychological point of view, he's so strong," he said.
Sautin has known more than his share of trials and tribulations. Back in 1991, when he was 17, he became embroiled in an argument with the son of an official of the Soviet communist party.
His adversary pulled out a knife and stabbed the unarmed teenager four times in the stomach.
Sautin almost bled to death and spent two months in hospital but the following summer he was competing at the Barcelona Olympics and winning his first diving medal.
In 2001 came news that he had been the victim of a botched hospital operation in Moscow two years previously.
He needed the operation because treatment for a back injury had left him with an infection but during the operation, a local newspaper quoted him as saying, "they forgot to take out the dressing and sewed me up just like that".
"You know I'm 30 years old, it's not the same body, not the same bones, I don't have the same health. It's getting more difficult, my nerves are not the same," he said on Tuesday.
As for the future, he might stay involved in synchronised diving but "for now I just need to have a rest".