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Golden oldies take centre stage

Paul Majendie in Athens | August 27, 2004 19:40 IST

Golden oldies struck gold at the Olympics on Friday with German canoeist Birgit Fischer and Polish walker Robert Korzeniowski showing a clean pair of heels to younger rivals.

Fischer won her eighth gold medal at the age of 42 when her K4 crew came from behind to beat world champions Hungary in a thrilling race.

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Fischer, who will bid for a record-equalling ninth gold in the K2 500 on Saturday, punched her fists in delight and was mobbed by photographers afterwards. She is the only woman to have won Olympic medals 24 years apart.

Savouring her every moment in the Olympic spotlight, she said: "You never know if it is going to be the last medal so it has a higher value."

The German retired after winning two golds in Sydney four years ago but returned in 2003 confessing to an "addiction" to her sport.

The 36-year-old Korzeniowski made history when winning an unprecedented third Olympic 50 km race walk title in a row -- but there was barely anyone to watch the greatest walker in history in a near-deserted Olympic stadium.

"That's it. That was my last step today as a top-class walker," Korzeniowski said. "It was the title I wanted the most, the one I dreamt about the most.

"I'm the happiest man alive. But it was disappointing that the stadium was empty. All my other medals were won in front of big crowds. I'm sorry about it but it's not my fault."

NO EXCEPTION

Drugs have dominated headlines since the Games began two weeks ago in the spiritual homeland of the Olympics. Friday was no exception.

Russian 400 metre runner Anton Galkin has been expelled after testing positive for the banned steroid stanozolol, the undoing of Ben Johnson at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

World Anti-Doping Agency President Dick Pound was amazed that athletes were still taking old-fashioned steroids such as stanozolol at the Athens Olympics.

"I really can't explain it," Pound told Reuters. "It's either got to be complete arrogance or complete stupidity."

But Olympic chief Jacques Rogge rejected claims the Games had been tarnished by the large number of positive dope tests and insisted he will do nothing differently if he had his time again.

"What counts is that we act against this evil drug use," the president of the International Olympic Committee said.

Emotions are running high among fiercely proud Greeks who faced a barrage of international criticism before the Games over construction chaos and security concerns.

Drug scandals and all the bad publicity have fuelled their ire, which exploded in the stadium.

Athens Olympic organisers have now urged local fans to behave after thousands of Greeks jeered at the start of Thursday's men's 200-metres final.

They were protesting at the absence of top sprinter Costas Kenteris and held up the race for over five minutes.

Thousands of spectators in the Olympic stadium chanted Kenteris's name, whistled, booed and delayed the race he had won in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, triggering a failed start and unsettling the sprinters.

For Italians competing in Athens, there are far more sombre concerns to address.

Italians competing at the Games decided to honour a journalist killed in Iraq by wearing black arm bands during Friday's events.

They will include the Italian men's soccer team, who play Iraq in the bronze medal match in the Olympic tournament later on Friday in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.

"This was a decision taken by CONI (the Italian Olympic committee) and regards all the Italian teams competing today, not just the footballers," a spokesman said.

Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni was seized on a road between Baghdad and Najaf. The Italian government said on Thursday his captors had killed him.


Athens 2004: The Complete Coverage

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