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"People power" stops Games event, Holmes wins

By Ralph Gowling
Last updated on: August 25, 2004 10:16 IST
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"People's power" stopped a gymnastics final when judges' scoring destroyed Russian Alexei Nemov's Olympic medal hopes on Monday, while Briton Kelly Holmes shattered Maria Mutola's dream of consecutive 800 metres titles.

The men's horizontal bar contest resumed only when Nemov, "Sexy Alexei" to his legion of admirers, waved to his fans and urged them to allow the sporting action to go on -- although he later declared he had been cheated.

Millions of television viewers round the world witnessed the dramatic hold-up as the crowd vented their disgust at the score the judges gave Nemov -- a 12-times Olympic medallist -- in the men's horizontal bar contest.

Italy's Igor Cassina went on to win the gold medal with a score of 9.812, while Paul Hamm of the United States claimed the silver and Japan's Isao Yoneda the bronze.

The 28-year-old Nemov had wowed the crowd with his routine in possibly the most daring and dangerous event in men's gymnastics but was awarded only 9.725. The judges modified the score to 9.762, but it still kept him off the podium.

"I don't think it was fair," said Nemov, who finished fifth.

"I thought I deserved a bronze. I think everything was decided in advance," he said. "I had maybe just a small mistake at the end but that was an opportunity for them to put me down."

Holmes ended years of frustration to beat her good friend and training partner Mutola from Mozambique in the women's 800 metres final.


Mutola, the dominant force in 800 metres for around a decade, stormed out of the stadium.

"I can't believe it. I didn't realise I had won," said Holmes, 34. "I knew I was in front but had to see the replay twice to make sure. I was just digging in."

Mutola, who finished fourth, had hoped to become the first woman in Olympic history to win two 800 golds in succession.

Jeremy Wariner succeeded Michael Johnson as king of the 400 metres clocking 44 seconds flat to edge his compatriot Otis Harris by 0.16 seconds. Derrick Brew was third in 44.42.

While doping and judging made unwanted headlines at the Games, Iraq's soccer players are living the Olympic dream -- hoping to bring joy to a country where there is pain.

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Iraq play Paraguay in a men's soccer semi-final on Tuesday, just days winning through to the last four and triggering wild celebratory gunfire in Baghdad.

"We need more joy to help ease our worries," said Hussein Allawi, 30, whose Baghdad shop was rocked by a car bomb a few weeks ago.

Saddam Hussein's son Uday once tortured Iraq's footballers for playing badly, and in the run-up to the Olympics they had to train alongside grazing sheep in Baghdad.

"Everyone will be proud of them," said government employee Abu Ali. "Even if they lose."


Cameroon picked up their second gold medal since making their first appearance at the Games in 1964 when Francoise Mbango Etone won the women's triple jump. Cameroon won their first Olympic gold in men's soccer four years ago.

Etone upstaged Russian favourite Tatyana Lebedeva, the 2000 silver medallist who had not lost a triple jump competition this season, with a jump of 15.30 metres.

The United States stand at the top of the medals table with 23 golds, 26 silvers and 17 bronzes, while China are second with 23 golds, 15 silvers and 12 bronzes. Japan are third and Australia fourth.

On the final day of the artistic gymnastics programme, Catalina Ponor showed off her sublime balancing skills on the beam before tumbling to glory on the floor exercise to become the most successful gymnast in Athens. Six days earlier she led Romania to the women's teams title.

Shamed and angered by doping scandals involving their two top athletes and a medal-winning weightlifter, Greece hailed an unexpected new Olympic heroine in Athanasia Tsoumeleka -- winner of the women's 20-km walk.

Deafening patriotic chants of "Hellas! Hellas!" spurred her on to the Olympic Stadium finish line.

The Athens Games got off to a disastrous start for Greece when top sprinters Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou pulled out over missed drugs tests. Then weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis had his bronze medal taken away.

Greece was embroiled in another medal controversy on Monday when Bulgaria appealed against the result of the Olympic gymnastics men's rings final, saying Jordan Jovtchev should have won the gold given to Greek Dimosthenis Tampakos.

At the women's wrestling, security guards had to be called in when the sport made its debut at the Games but the trouble was in the stands, not on the mat.

Former professional wrestler "Animal" Hamaguchi tried to leap from the stands to protest when Chinese opponent Wang Xu was awarded victory in the 72 kg semi-final over his daughter Kyoko Hamaguchi. Wang went on to win gold.
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Ralph Gowling
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