The Olympic Games came home to Athens and proved to be a ‘wonderful’ success with many fantastic memories in what has been described as arguably ‘the finest athletic event ever staged’. With packed stadiums (all completed in time) and beautiful weather the athletics programme highlighted the 2004 Olympics with two World Records, two double Olympic Champions and a multitude of dramatic competitions containing all the excitement expected of the ‘greatest sporting event in the world’. 30 PACE athletes played their part in the drama with some highs and some lows but all adding to the excitement of the event.
MLF takes gold in 4 x 100m
Mark Lewis-Francis (GBR) saved his best to last as, on the final day of the track programme, he ran an outstanding anchor leg to lead the GBR team to victory in the 4 x 100m relay over the heavily fancied USA team. Despite disappointment at not reaching the individual 100m final (he was 5th in the semi-final) the Birchfield sprinter scorched down the track to hold off the late challenge from USA’s Maurice Greene. The GBR team of Jason Gardener, Darren Campbell, Marlon Devonish and MLF stopped the clock at 38.07 secs, fractionally ahead of the USA’s 38.08secs. In his post race interviews an elated MLF hoped that this success will be the foundation for even greater things in the build up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, where he will still only be 25 years old.
Bronze for Nadia and Ronetta
In her first major Championship Jamaican 400m Champion Nadia Davy ran a great 400m leg to help her team to the bronze medals behind USA and Russia. Running on the third leg the LSU graduate opened up a huge gap on her pursuers to secure that her team would finish in a medal position. In the semi-final Ronetta Smith (JAM) did her bit for the team with a good opening leg to set up qualification for the final.
4ths for Francique and Kiprop
World No. 1 400m runner Alleyne Francique (GRN) came into the Championships with serious gold medal ambitions. The World Indoor Champion cruised through the opening round but eased down too much in the semi-final which resulted in him drawing lane eight in the final. Despite running an excellent 44.66 secs from lane 8 he was forced into 4th place as the USA trio of Warnier, Harris and Brew took the medal positions. At 7k in the men’s 10,000m final World Junior Champion Boniface Kiprop (UGA) looked to be guaranteed a place on the podium as he, and Ethopians Kenesisa Bekele and Sileshi Sihine, had dropped all rivals including defending Champion Haile Gebreselaisse. However a dramatic reduction of pace on the 8th kilometer allowed Haile and Eritrean Tadesse Zersenay to rejoin the leading group. A fascinating battle resumed with Kiprop eventually getting run out of the medals as Bekele, Sihine and Zersenay took the top three positions.
Pavey and Tomlinson get 5th
Jo Pavey (GBR) ran a magnificent last 2000m meters to cut through the field on her way to 5th position in the women’s 5000m. Despite having missed much of the competitive season due to injury the Teddington based runner peaked when it mattered most with the best performance of her career so far. British long jump Champion Chris Tomlinson equalled the finishing position of his PACE team-mate with a best jump of 8.25m in the opening round of the final. With a further 4 jumps over 8m it was the best competition of his life but an agonising 7cm short of a medal position. Both athletes continue to improve with every season and it is surely only a matter of time before they win major medals in the future.
A total of 15 PACE athletes became Olympic finalists in Athens. John Kibowen (KEN) was the best of bunch with a 6th place finish in the men’s 5000m. If it had not been for injuries surely Kibowen and Kenyan compatriot Abraham Chebii would have had a greater say in the medals outcome (Chebii was forced to drop out at 3k). Carmen Douma-Hussar (CAN) ran a personal best of 4:02.31 to place 9th in the women’s 1500m final while Claston Bernard (JAM) set a National Record of 8225 points for 9th in the decathlon. World Junior silver medallist Fabiano Joseph (TAN) took 10th in the men’s 10,000m while Kathy Butler (GBR) ran a good race to finish 12th in the women’s 10,000m.
Hard Luck Stories
Of the hard luck stories, injury wrecked the Olympic campaigns of World Junior 200m record holder Usain Bolt (JAM) and Chris Lambert (GBR); while Delloreen Ennis-London (JAM) was unfortunate to miss out on a final position in the 100mH. Jermaine Gonzales (JAM) ran an excellent leg of the 4 x 400m relay only to find out that his team was later disqualified, while a combination of illness and injury effected medal favourite Chris Rawlinson (GBR) in the 400mH. Other PACE athletes progressing to the semi-final stages of their events included Diane Cummins (CAN), Marian Burnett (GUY), James Nolan (IRL) and Tim Benjamin (GBR).
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