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Last Updated: Monday, 30 August, 2004, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
Moments to cry for
By Phil Gordos
BBC Sport in Athens

Tears of joy and tears of despair, there were plenty of both in Athens.

For the Brits, the image of Matthew Pinsent breaking down on the medal podium as he took possession of a fourth rowing gold left many observers with a lump in the throat.

So did the forlorn figure of Paula Radcliffe slumped on the side of an Athens freeway with her marathon dreams in tatters, but for very different reasons.

Hicham El Guerrouj

Hicham El Guerrouj, Yuriy Borzakovsky and Frankie Fredericks also found it difficult to keep their emotions in check.

Tears streamed down El Guerrouj's cheeks when he finally managed to crown his glorious middle-distance career with Olympic gold in the 1500m.

And Borzakovsky similarly cracked up after winning the 800m.

As for Fredericks, the 36-year-old Namibia found it hard to speak after just failing to round off his career with a medal in the 200m.

Several other sporting favourites bid farewell to the Olympic arena.

Gymnast Svetlana Khorkina could not get her elegant hands on the all-round gold she desperately craved.

But the thousands of pounds she can expect to earn as a model when she eventually swaps the beam for the catwalk may soften the blow.

Her fellow Russian Alexander Popov also failed to bow out on a high. The first man to win the 100m freestyle at two successive Olympics since Johnny "Tarzan" Weissmuller in the 1920s, Popov could not make the final in Athens.

He also went in the 50m free - an event he had won twice - but bowed out in the heats.

There were far more dramatic failures than Popov's. The United States men's basketball team could not live up their "Dream Team" billing, beaten in the semi-finals by Argentina.

But at least their female counterparts made amends by winning the women's event, defeating Australia in the final.

In the tennis, Roger Federer and Andy Roddick were early casualties, Federer losing to the little-known Czech Tomas Berdych.

With the star names gone, Nicolas Massu gave Chile only their second-ever Olympic gold, the first having come just 24 hours earlier when Massu teamed up with Fernando Gonzalez to win the men¿s doubles.

There were some amazing comebacks to counteract the dreadful failures.

Finding himself way down in 19th place after day one, Ben Ainslie hit back brilliantly to win sailing's Finn class, emulating his Laser success in Sydney four years ago.

And Georgina Harland stormed to bronze in the modern pentathlon after ending the first event - the shooting - 30th of the 32 competitors.

But perhaps the greatest triumph over adversity - certainly as far as the Brits were concerned - involved cyclists Bradley Wiggins and Rob Hayles.

Rob Hayles

Lying in contention midway through the madison, their hopes of a podium finish lay in ruins when Hayles crashed to earth with a sickening bump.

He lay on the side of the track for several seconds before bravely remounting and then setting off in pursuit of his rivals.

No one thought a medal was possible after such a crunching setback, but Hayles and Wiggins dug deep into their reserves and, roared on by the British fans, somehow clawed their way to bronze.

The atmosphere inside the velodrome could not compare with that inside the Aquatics Centre on day three of the Games.

In a quite amazing diving competition, Greek duo Thomas Bimis and Nikolaos Siranidis shocked everyone, not least the home fans, by winning the 3m synchronised event.

Helped by a Canadian prankster, who, complete with tutu, had disrupted the final by jumping from one of the platforms, Bimis and Sirandis won the host nation's first gold of the Games as their rivals lost their cool and concentration.

It was a dramatic finale and set the tone for another truly memorable fortnight of sporting action.

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