The Greek faithful came to see if their 35-year-old star of Olympics past could give them one last thrill. They left having witnessed the new breed of lifting.
Bulgaria's Milen Dobrev -- a sleek 24-year-old whose freshly shaved head, wide eyebrows and thick neck give him a striking resemblance to the advertising icon Mr. Clean -- lived up to his top seeding and took the gold medal in the 207-pound (94 kg) division of the Olympic weightlifting tournament in Athens last night.
Dobrev, the reigning world champion, made clean lifts on each of his first five tries. He failed on his sixth and final attempt, but just laughed and kissed the weights, knowing his total of 898 pounds (407.5 kg) already had clinched first place.
Junior world champion Khadjimourad Akkaev, a 19-year-old from Russia, took silver with a total of 893 pounds (405 kg). Fellow Russian Eduard Tjukin got the bronze.
Missing from the medal stand was three-time Olympic champion Kakhi Kakiasvilis, a Russia native who became a Greek citizen in 1994 after discovering that his mother and grandmother were from Greece.
Kakiasvilis didn't even finish with a legal total. After failing on his first lift, he loaded extra weights on the bar to try catching up quickly. The plan backfired as he was successful only once.
"This was the most important moment of my career, but also the most bitter," Kakiasvilis said. "It's the first time my legs didn't support me. This has made be more stubborn and I'm not giving up."
Already the oldest lifter in the field, Kakiasvilis proclaimed he wants to try again in Beijing in 2008, when he'll be 39.
"I'll try and see what happens," he said.
A sellout crowd of 5,000 fans, many thinking they'd seen his last performance, began chanting "Ka-khi" as soon as the medal ceremony ended, eventually luring him out for a quick wave from the platform. They kept cheering until he went up again, even moving a little farther out, but he refused to approach the medal platform as they had hoped.
"I wanted to give something to my lovely crowd, but I didn't," he said. "I didn't have the power."
Kakiasvilis joins fellow Greek Pyrros Dimas and Naim Suleymanoglu, the Pocket Hercules from Turkey, as those who've won three straight golds and returned to try for a fourth. Dimas took bronze on Saturday, while Suleymanoglu never came close four years ago in Sydney.
Dimas, another Greek transplant, is more popular in his adopted homeland than Kakiasvilis, as evidenced by the 15-minute standing ovation he received after his bronze medal performance. But this lifting-loving nation showed it has plenty of affection to go around.
Fans chanted lustily even before the finals began and were never dismayed by Kakiasvilis's failures. They also were highly supportive of another Greek, Nikolaos Kourtidis, who at age 18 finished 11th.
Of the dozen or so signs taped to the walls, there was even one supporting Leonidas Sampanis, who was stripped Sunday of his bronze medal 137-pound (62kg) category for doping. "Sampanis, we are on your side," it read.
Dobrev was very businesslike in his approach, especially compared to the pensive, waggle-filled lifts by Kakiasvilis.
The Bulgarian set a tone with his first lift, walking straight to the bar and wasting no time before snatching 397 pounds (180 kg) over his head. He then walked off quickly, as if he'd picked up something half as heavy.
"I was well prepared for the Olympic tournament," Dobrev said.
Brazil defeated Sweden, 1-0, in a women's soccer semifinal in Patras, setting up a gold medal meeting with the United States.
Forward Pretinha won it for Brazil with a clinical 64th-minute strike from an almost impossible angle.
"I'm just glad my goal took Brazil into the final," said Pretinha, one of two players on the Brazilian squad not playing for a professional club. "We are a country with a big tradition in football and we have set our standards high. We want that gold medal."
Seven-time kayaking gold medalist Birgit Fischer of Germany -- trying to become the first woman to win Olympic medals 24 years apart -- had a strong start. Her four-person kayak never trailed in its 500-meter heat at Schinias.
The American women's K-4 boat finished last in the same five-kayak heat but remains in contention. An Olympic format allows boats finishing outside the top three to enter a semifinal.
Three quick races, about 40 seconds of hard pedaling time, and it was all over for U.S track cyclist Jennie Reed, who was eliminated from the opening rounds of the sprint competition.
She finished second in the consolation race, placing her 10th in a 12-woman field.
Australia easily defeated Britain for the gold medal in the 4,000-meter team pursuit, adding the Olympic title to its three consecutive world championships in the event. Australia finished in 3 minutes 58.233 seconds. Britain finished in 4:01.760.
Spain beat defending gold medalist Germany for the bronze.
Alexandre Despatie led the Olympic three-meter springboard preliminaries, keeping the powerful Chinese out of their customary top spot. Despatie, the first Canadian to win a world title on the 10-meter platform last year, was first with 517.59 points.
Peng Bo of China was second with 495.45. Russia's Alexander Dobroskok was third with 489.75; Japan's Ken Terauchi was fourth with 456.15.
The United States had mixed results in an event that Americans have won 15 out of 17 Olympics from 1920 to 1992. Troy Dumais was in fifth place with 452.76. He finished sixth on springboard four years ago.
American Justin Wilcock, competing for the first time since injuring his back after the U.S. trials in June, failed to advance, finishing last among 32 competitors. He was 118.53 points out of 31st place.
Ryu Seung Min beat China's Wang Hao in six games, becoming the first South Korean to win the men's table tennis gold medal since the sport was added at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.
Ryu, ranked third in the world, won, 11-3, 9-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-13, 11-9, ending China's long run of men's singles titles. Wang Liqin of China won the bronze.
Russia and Japan held down their customary 1-2 spots and the United States was in third after the duet technical routine.
World champions Anastasia Davydova and Anastasia Ermakova swam to the theme from "The Matrix" and scored 49.417 points.
As expected, the Japanese team of Miya Tachibana and Miho Takeda claimed the second spot with 49.000 points in the technical routine, which will be combined with scores from tonight's free routine to determine the 12 teams competing in the final tomorrow.
Americans Anna Kozlova and Alison Bartosik swam to a clarinet and percussion piece with a bit of Indian flair.