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Superpowers in pool duel

August 15, 2004 14:05 IST

Australia and the United States, the superpowers of Olympic swimming, clash in a men's relay pool duel on Sunday that could see the world record tumble.

China, the last communist superpower, had a dream start to Athens 2004, scooping four gold medals on day one to consolidate their position as Asia's titan of sport.

But for host country Greece, hailed for its superb opening ceremony, there was more shame to contemplate after its two top sprinters were suspended from its team over a drugs inquiry.

In the Olympic pool where spectators have been sweltering in the baking Greek Sun, the Americans are out for revenge.

In the men's 4x100m freestyle relay, Australia beat the United States for the first time in Sydney in a world record time that could fall in Athens.

On Saturday, the Australians pulled off their first Olympics victory in the women's 4x100 metres freestyle relay in nearly 50 years, deposing the long-dominant Americans and breaking the world record in a tingling final.

American Michael Phelps made the perfect start to his bid for eight golds -- he broke his own world record to land the 400 metres individual medley.

He certainly lived up to all the hype that has surrounded him since he announced that he would try and better compatriot Mark Spitz's seven gold medals from the Munich Games in 1972.

Australia's great hope, Ian Thorpe, also got off to a flying start by successfully defending his 400 freestyle title.

THORPE VICTORY

It was emotional victory for Thorpe who had not lost a 400 freestyle race in seven years but was disqualified for a false start at the Australian trials and only defended his title after Craig Stevens stepped down.

China, host to the next Games in Beijing, was fast out of the Olympic starting blocks. It went straight to the top of the medals table with two shooting and two diving triumphs.

But drugs still cast a shadow over sport.

Greece suspended Olympic sprint champion Costas Kenteris and silver medallist Katerina Thanou from the national team for missing drugs tests in a scandal that has stunned the nation.

That decision produced a scathing retort from the Sportime daily newspaper which said: "Punish them now without exception.

"Small and meek, the members of the Greek Olympic Committee disgraced us with a decision that Pontius Pilate would envy. By keeping your mouth shut, you are also guilty."

A British newspaper also heaped embarrassment on Olympics organisers by claiming that an undercover reporter was able to plant three suspicious packages undetected.

The Sunday Mirror, calling the Athens Olympics "a terrorist's dream," said reporter Bob Graham also used a bogus job as a driver to wander round the main stadium with passes in the names of Michael Mouse and Robert bin Laden and get near to world leaders at the opening ceremony.

Olympic supremo Gianna Angelopoulos, the Iron Lady of Athens, set a scorching pace in pulling the Games together and delivered on time. On Saturday night, fireworks at a reception for heads of state at her home set a nearby park on fire.


Athens 2004: The Complete Coverage

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