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Greece's First Gold of Games Is Surprise Party

From News Services
Tuesday, August 17, 2004; Page D11

It was a glorious surprise, igniting a party complete with song and dance: The Greeks won the first gold medal of their homeland Olympics with an unexpected victory last night in men's synchronized diving.

"I still can't believe it," gold medalist Nikolaos Siranidis said. "It feels like a fairy tale. It's hard for me to speak."

_____ Day 4 _____
 Olympics
Michael Phelps's quest for seven gold medals at the Athens Games ends.
Americans Natalie Coughlin and Aaron Peirsol strike gold in the 100-meter backstroke.
The U.S. men's gymnastics team wins silver.
The U.S. softball team extends winning streak to 73 games.
The U.S. women's basketball team dominates the Czech Republic.
Venus Williams and Chanda Rubin lose their doubles opener.
Doubles partners Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish lose in Round 1.
The U.S. women's team edges Hungary in water polo.
Greece gets its first gold with a win in synchronized diving.
The IOC postpones hearing for Greek sprinters.

_____ More From The Post _____
Sally Jenkins: Phelps is a swimmer who still has some boy in him.
Michael Wilbon: At the moment, any opponent is a threat to the U.S. men's basketball team.
McDonald's goes for gold with Olympics sponsorship.
Beach volleyball is a beer commercial of a sport.

_____ On Our Site _____
Athens Snippets: The Games need a shot of pizzazz.
Graphic: The men's 200 freestyle was billed as the race of the Games.

_____ Monday's Medals _____
Swimming
Men's 200-meter freestyle
Men's 100-meter backstroke
Women's 100-meter backstroke
Women's 100-meter breaststroke
Gymnastics
Men's team final
Synchronized Diving
Women's 10-meter platform
Men's 3-meter springboard
Fencing
Men's individual foil
Judo
Men's 73kg
Women's 57kg
Shooting
Women's trap
Men's 10-meter air rifle
Weightlifting
Women's 58kg
Men's 62kg

_____ Photos _____
Day 4
Day 3
Day 2
Opening Ceremonies

_____ Live Online _____
Sally Jenkins will take questions and comments, 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Submit questions.

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First, the favored Chinese team blew a 12-point lead in the three-meter springboard event by scoring zero on a disastrous final dive. Next, Russians Dmitry Suatin and Alexander Dobroskok botched their attempt, followed by a terrible landing from the American pair, Justin and Troy Dumais, which had been in second place.

Add the Greek pair's killer final dive -- a well-executed inward 3 1/2 somersault tuck -- and the celebration was on.

"We hope this is just the start, and there are more medals," said Thomas Bimis, Siranidis's partner.

Greece earned a final-round score of 83.64 points and finished with 353.34. Andreas Wels and Tobias Schellenberg of Germany won the silver medal with 350.01, while Robert Newbery and Steven Barnett of Australia earned the bronze with 349.59.

When the results became official, Greek music echoed through the venue and the dancing started. Siranidis and Bimis jumped onto a practice board, and after slight slip -- the first time they stumbled all night -- they waved a Greek flag and encouraged the raucous local fans.

"We are a nation with heart," Coach Peter Firigos said.

The celebration continued right up to the Greek national anthem and medal presentation, with chants of "Hellas" -- as the country is called in Greek -- and more dancing as the music slowed down. A slow, clapping rhythm took over before the beat picked up and reached its ear-splitting peak again.

Earlier, Lao Lishi and Li Ting of China easily won the women's 10-meter platform competition.

Weightlifting

China swept the gold medals in two events and finished 1-2 at men's 137 pounds.

Shi Zhiyong held off countryman Le Maosheng and Greece's Leonidas Sampanis to win the 137-pound gold. Le won the silver and Sampanis was happy to get the bronze at age 32. His was Greece's first medal of its Olympics.

Earlier, Chen Yanqing won gold at 127 pounds, her first major title since winning the 1999 world championship in Athens.

Archery

Defending Olympic champion Simon Fairweather of Australia was knocked out by Anton Prylepav of Belarus in the first men's elimination round at Panathinaiko Stadium. Fairweather, seeded 20th, lost 141-137. Australia's David Barnes was also eliminated.

Vic Wunderle, who won a silver in individual and bronze in the team competition in Sydney, was the only American to advance.

Bhutan's Tashi Peljor pulled the biggest upset of the day, beating 13th seed Jocelyn de Grandis of France. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan.

Shooting

Zhu Qinan of China set a world record, winning the gold medal in the 10-meter men's air rifle.

Zhu scored 702.7, topping the mark of 702.5 set by American Jason Parker in 2003. China's Li Jie took the silver and Slovakia's Jozef Gonci won the bronze.

Suzanne Balogh of Australia pulled away from the field to win the gold medal in trap shooting. Maria Quintanal of Spain took the silver. American Collyn Loper finished fourth, one point behind Lee Bo Na of South Korea, who won the bronze.

Tennis

Venus Williams and Chanda Rubin lost, 7-5, 1-6, 6-3, to eighth-seeded Li Ting and Sun Tian Tian of China in the first round of the doubles tournament.

Williams won the doubles gold medal at the Sydney Games with her sister Serena, who pulled out of these Olympics last week, citing a left knee injury. So Rubin filled in, marking the first time Venus Williams ever played a tournament doubles match with anyone but her sibling.

In men's doubles, the top-seeded Bryan twins, Bob and Mike, routed Russians Marat Safin and Mikhail Youzhny, 6-1, 6-2.

Volleyball

The U.S. women's team held back a late charge from Germany to win, 3-1 (25-22, 25-22, 22-25, 27-25), at Peace and Friendship Stadium.

After cruising through the first two games, the U.S. momentum began slipping at the end of the third set. Germany won that set by scoring the final four points, and scored four straight again late in the fourth to get to set point, 25-24. But after Coach Toshiaki Yoshida called a timeout, the United States got a spike, an ace and another spike to close out the match.

Softball

Helped by two errors, the United States scored three runs in the eighth inning for a 3-0 win over Japan. The Americans extended their winning streak to 73 games.

Cat Osterman pitched a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts, and the United States (3-0) remained the only unbeaten team in the eight-team tournament.

Water Polo

Brenda Villa scored four goals and Kelly Rulon had a pair as the world champion United States began the pursuit for an Olympic gold medal with a 7-6 win over Hungary.

The Americans led by three goals after the first quarter, but the Hungarians rallied to 5-5 late in the third quarter and took a 6-5 lead in the final period. Villa pulled the United States to 6-6. Then Rulon -- celebrating her Olympic debut and her 20th birthday -- scored the winning goal a minute later.

Fencing

France's Brice Guyart rallied from an early deficit in the final to defeat Italy's Salvatore Sanzo and win the gold medal in men's foil. Guyart trailed 4-0 but quickly tied the bout and won 15-13. Andrea Cassara of Italy defeated Russia's Renal Ganeev, 15-12, to take the bronze.

American Dan Kellner fell one touch short of reaching the quarterfinals. He upset No. 7 seed Cedric Gohy, 15-12, in the round of 32, and led 14-12 in his next bout but couldn't close out the win, as Britain's Richard Kruse rallied to win, 15-14.

Badminton

Americans Kevin Han and Howard Bach were eliminated, 15-6, 15-4, by Denmark's Jens Eriksen and Martin Lundgaard in the doubles round of 16.

Baseball

Greece scored three times in the ninth inning to pull within one run of mighty Cuba, but Pedro Luis Lazo struck out James Kavourias to end the rally and the game, 5-4.


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