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Australia cries along with Pittman in hurdles

Greg Buckle | August 26, 2004 10:13 IST

Australia equalled their national record of 16 golds at a single Olympics overnight, but that was scant consolation with 400 metres hurdler Jana Pittman failing to pull off an extraordinary victory on Wednesday.

Australia's world champion Pittman, racing less than three weeks after surgery on her right knee, led early but faded in the home stretch and dropped to fifth.

Australian Broadcasting Corp. Radio led their 7.45am news bulletin with commentary from the race, before announcing: "Jana Pittman breaks down in tears as she misses out on a medal, while Australia equals its record gold medal tally (with two cycling wins)."

Channel Seven host Tony Squires had joked on Wednesday that it was the duty of all Australians to stay up until 4.55am local time on Thursday to watch Pittman's final and the 21-year-old hurdler thanked the nation after the race, having received 5,000 messages of support.

Australia's television commentators could barely contain their excitement.

"Pittman if anything is in front," they said mid-race.

"Can Jana hang on? She's attacking. She looks spent. Jana is going to miss the medals.

"What a victory it is (to Greece's Fani Halkia). Greece has won. Pittman ran her heart out.

"She (Halkia) has done a (Cathy) Freeman. She's carried a nation on her back to victory."

The ABC Radio commentator said: "Pittman blew up in the straight.

"Jana Pittman gave herself every chance. She ran a fantastic first 300 metres.

"Look at Halkia now. I think she feels exactly the same way as Cathy Freeman did four years ago.

"It's not joy, not celebration. It's just total relief.

"This isn't a Greek tragedy. It's a fairytale."

Freeman, of aboriginal descent, became a national heroine in the 2000 Sydney Games when she overcame huge home pressure to win the 400 m event.

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