Britain's Kelly Sotherton took Olympic heptathlon bronze behind new champion Carolina Kluft after a dramatic second day of competition.
Sotherton finished just 11 points behind silver medallist Austra Skujyte and would have overtaken her had she gone two seconds faster in the 800m.
Kluft, the European and World champion, was the deserving winner, finishing 517 points clear.
Reigning champion Denise Lewis pulled out after a poor run of results.
Sotherton had been in silver medal position after an excellent long jump, her best event.
But she could manage only 37.19 metres in the javelin and despite a gutsy run in the 800, Skujyte held on by the smallest of margins.
"I went out to get the silver medal so I'm actually disappointed," said a breathless Sotherton afterwards.
"I only did one personal best over the two days and my javelin was poor.
"But I got a bronze medal and I don't believe it. I can't believe the enormity of an Olympic bronze.
"It's been a tough two days and I'm absolutely knackered.
"I had a dream of a medal, but this is a surprise.
"All it feels like at the moment is as if I won bronze in a national championships - but I'm sure it will sink in soon."
While Sotherton sealed her emergence this season with an Olympic bronze, Kluft's golden performance confirmed her status as the best all-round female athlete in the world.
"It was two long days but I am very satisfied," said the Swedish 21-year-old.
"I've done it, I've got the gold and its over.
"I'm the type of person who needs to have fun to perform well and the crowd and the
competition were remarkable."
With the Swede sweeping all before her in Athens, it seems likely that she will now set her sights on Jackie Joyner-Kersee's world record total of 7291 points.