Greece hasn't been exceptionally kind to U.S. decathlete Tom Pappas, whose Greek heritage made him a favorite among Greek track aficionados well before the 2004 Summer Games.
On the first day of the Olympic decathlon competition Monday, Pappas struggled in the long jump and high jump and found himself mired in fifth place with 4,415 points, 274 behind leader Dmitriy Karpov of Kazakhstan.
"I didn't make my mark and I am really disappointed," said Pappas, who won his first world title last year. "I really thought that my training had put me in the best shape of my life, but that is just the way it goes. . . . I will hope for the best tomorrow and keep my head in the game. . . . I don't have the confidence right now. Confidence is a big, big thing for me right now."
Czech Republic world record holder Roman Sebrle stood in second place with 4,594 points, while American Bryan Clay, who edged Pappas at the U.S. Olympic trials, stood in third with 4,554.
Despite a great day overall, Clay said he was extremely disappointed with a sub-par performance in the 400 meters (49.19 seconds, 15th best) after confusion over which heat he was scheduled to run. He said he thought he was competing in Heat 3, but found out minutes before the race that he had to run in the second heat.
"The next thing you know, I'm in Heat 2," he said. "I got about a stride to warm up. My legs just locked up on me at 200 [meters]. That's the breaks. You learn to live with it and start again tomorrow."
U.S. sprinter Allyson Felix, 18, posted the fastest time of the day in the 200 qualifying rounds Monday morning (22.39 seconds), then easily advanced in the evening's quarterfinal round, winning her heat in 22.69 seconds. Muna Lee of Louisiana State University also qualified easily, winning her quarterfinal heat in 22.74 seconds.
The pair said they had been inspired by the performances over the weekend of young stars Lauryn Williams, 20, and Justin Gatlin, 22. Williams won a silver in the women's 100 and Gatlin the gold in the men's 100.
"That is a theme," Felix said. "We're just hoping to bring a new wave here and get people thinking positive things about track and field. . . . We're just so eager. Everybody just has such passion. All this is so new to us. We're just trying to take it all in and get experience."
American LaShaunte'a Moore also qualified for the semifinals in 22.96 seconds.
U.S. hurdlers Joanna Hayes and Melissa Morrison both set personal bests in Monday night's women's 100 hurdles semifinals, with Hayes posting the fastest time of the night (12.48 seconds) and Morrison, who won the bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Games, the third-best time (12.53).
With Gail Devers, 37, out of the event because of an injury she suffered in the first round, Hayes and Morrison represent the U.S. medal hopes. Canada's Perdita Felicien, the reigning world champion, is the event favorite. She qualified in 12.49 seconds.
"I feel great and confident going into the finals," Hayes said. "I am going to work on my start for tomorrow. It is going to be a very fast final. I have some good competitors, but I am feeling confident and I can get on that stand."
A Toast to Kastor
U.S. distance runner Deena Kastor, who claimed the bronze medal in Sunday's marathon, said she received a standing ovation at a Greek cafe when she and 15 friends and family members went out after the event. The cafe, Kastor said, featured two large-screen televisions tuned into the Olympics. After the ovation, she said, the restaurant owner brought her a big pot of orchids and several bottles of wine, on the house.
"I felt like a rock star," Kastor said. "It was just a celebration all the way around. It was a very special moment." . . .
After Gatlin won the men's 100 Sunday, his coach, Trevor Graham, admitted for the first time publicly that he mailed in the syringe that set off the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) scandal. Graham, who had been identified this summer by the San Jose Mercury News, told reporters he had no regrets and "was just a coach doing the right thing at the time." . . .
The International Olympic Committee on Monday revoked the gold medal won by Russian shot putter Irina Korzhanenko, 30, in last week's historic event at Ancient Olympia. Korzhanenko, who tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol, was kicked out of the Games and disqualified from the competition. She also faces a two-year ban from the international track federation (IAAF).