Unbelievably, it took washingtonpost.com's Bill Grant way longer than 2 1/2 hours to come up with this column.
Sprinter Justin Gatlin holds off the field to win the 100 meters in 9.85 seconds to claim the title of world's fastest man.

The U.S. men's elite eight crew ends a 40-year American drought in rowing gold medals, taking a big lead and then holding off the Netherlands.

Mizuki Noguchi of Japan wins gold and American Deena Kastor used a late burst for a bronze medal in the women's marathon.

Christian Olsson wins the triple jump, just minutes after Swedish countryman Stefan Holm celebrated victory in the high jump.

Greek gymnast Dimosthenis Tampakos sends the Olympic Indoor Hall into a frenzy, winning gold on the rings.

"I can't believe it happened. It was a very great race. I'm living the moment. The competition was stellar. I said it was going to be the most exciting race in the world, and it was."
-- Gatlin

"It's incredible. I was in tears the whole last lap."
-- Kastor

"There's no greater privilege than to represent America at this time with all that's going on in the world."
-- Jason Read, a volunteer fire chief and World Trade Center search-and-rescue veteran who helped the United States break a 40-year drought in rowing gold medals.

Mia Hamm heads into the last two games of her soccer career as the Americans face Germany in the semifinals.

The U.S. women's softball team plays for the gold medal, trying to win their third in a row.

U.S. sprinters line up for the 400 meters -- a race Americans have won in the past five Olympics.

Time Is on Your Side

By Bill Grant
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Web Posted: Sunday, Aug. 22, 2004; 10:35 p.m. EDT

ATHENS -- Think about the marathon for a second. Think about running 26.2 miles in 90-degree heat. Think about doing it in about 2½ hours, as Japan's Mizuki Noguchi did Sunday night in winning the gold medal at Panathiniko Stadium, site of the original modern Olympics in 1896.

Now, think about what you  could do in 2½ hours:

Suffer through "Cold Mountain" on DVD.

Sit through your child's swim meet -- even though Michael Phelps's parents probably got started this way.

Cook a 10-pound turkey.

Commute to work and back (baring any out-of-the-ordinary mayhem on the Beltway or Interstate 66).

Watch a typical, regular-season NBA game (no overtime).

File your income taxes (but only if you use Form 1040EZ).

Go to the mall, find a parking spot, discover that the back-to-school sale items have been picked over by hordes of hungry bargain hunters.

Read Sunday's edition of The Post.

Trim, edge and mow your grass.

Drive to Philadelphia, although we're not sure why you'd want to.

Play nine holes of golf.

Get your address changed at the DMV. (Unless you live in the District. Then we're talking two marathons and a 10K.)

It's Over, and She's Loving It
Ron C. Judd of the Seattle Times offers up this sure sign that swimming is over: Natalie Coughlin, who will be going home with five medals, was spotted the other night in the media center McDonald's putting away a double cheeseburger, biggie fries and a Coke. Perhaps we'll be seeing her in a Mickey D's spot soon.

How Hot Was It?
It was so hot in the sand at the beach volleyball venue Sunday that Brazilian Sandra Pires wore black socks to keep it from scalding her feet.

Food Fight
There has been lots of chatter about how expensive these Olympics are, and with some tickets to some events going for $300 a pop, it's difficult to argue. But as anyone -- especially parents -- will attest, tickets are just the beginning of sport's money pit. There's popcorn. There's hot dogs. There's beer. The Olympics are no different. (Well, maybe a little different. Because there are so few fans at some of these events, you don't have to worry about missing the action while waiting in a long line to get your popcorn.) Since Snippets is all about reader participation, we've borrowed one of those wacky Internet contests. All you have to do is tell us what the following costs a paying customer at any official venue:

4 hot dogs
4 boxes of popcorn
2 bottles of Coke (500 ml)
2 cans of Heineken (400 ml)
2 ice cream cups

Here's the catch: You have to tell us in Euros. We're having enough problems with this currency conversion thing; we don't need more. Mail your guess, your name and your e-mail address to Olympic Food. The first correct answer we receive wins some cool -- and quite collectible -- washingtonpost.com stuff.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
It's good to be Michael Phelps. The decorated swimmer (six golds medals, two bronze) will walk away with more than $1 million for his Olympic feats, despite the fact that he missed out on matching Mark Spitz's record of seven golds and its accompanying $1 million bonus from Speedo. Phelps will get $510,000 from USA Swimming and the U.S. Olympic Committee. In addition, his agent says he will get at least that in performance-related bonuses from his other corporate sponsors.

Meanwhile, don't expect Phelps to fade into obscurity any time soon. He says he might stick around for another two Olympics, particularly if New York gets the 2012 Games. He says he would relish a chance to "swim my last meet, my last Olympic Games, in the United States, if we get that bid."

Oh, Canada!
The natives are getting restless in Canada. Before gymnast Kyle Shewfelt won the gold medal in the floor exercise Sunday, Canadians had won only won only two silvers and a bronze, prompting Toronto Star columnist Rosie Di Manno to lament: "We are a Third World country, athletically." What's more, after witnessing Canada's worst Olympic swim meet in 40 years, a group of former Canadian swimmers wants head coach Dave Johnson's head. The best finish by a Canadian swimmer? Sixth.

E-mail Us
We'd like to hear what you are thinking about the Olympics, and we'll even publish the few that don't make us blush, gag or speed-dial our lawyers. Keep 'em clean and keep 'em short and remember to put "Olympics" in the subject line.

As always, we want to thank our colleagues at Reuters, the Associated Press and the 2004 Olympics blog for contributing to today's report.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

Mizuki Noguchi keeps the women's marathon gold in Japanese hands -- Naoko Takahasi won in Sydney. (Toby Melville -- Reuters)

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