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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 19:50 GMT 20:50 UK
Backley squeezes through
Steve Backley competes in the javelin qualifying round in Athens
Steve Backley breathed a huge sigh of relief as he sneaked into Saturday's javelin final despite missing the automatic qualifying mark of 81m.

Bidding for a fourth Olympic medal after two previous silvers and a bronze, the Briton's best throw out of three was 80.68m, 32cm short.

With five of the 12 final places taken from the first group, he anxiously had to watch the second group throw.

But only five more hit the 81m mark, with Backley second best of the rest.

American Breaux Greer, with 87.25m, Russian Sergey Makarov (86.08m), Finn Esko Mikkolo (83.64m), Estonian Andrus Varnik (83.25m) and another Finn, Matti Narhi, with 81.06m, were the five automatic qualifiers from Group A.

Backley, 35, then had to hope less than seven athletes in the second pool went over 81m or beat his best effort.

His worst fears looked like being realised as five sent their first throws beyond the 81m mark.

Latvia's Vadims Vasilevskis (84.43m), Russian Alexandr Ivanov (82.18m), Finland's Tero Pitkamaki (82.04m), Norway's Andreas Thorkildsen (81.74m) and three-time champion Jan Zelezny (81.18m) all went through at the first attempt.

Latvia's Erik Rags then threw 80.84m to overtake Backley as the best of those not automatically through, leaving the Briton clinging onto the 12th and final spot.

But none of the remaining athletes were able to surpass Backley's throw, Cuba's Isbel Luaces falling just 61cm short.

Britain's other representative, Nick Nieland failed to make the final, finishing 28th after disappointing throws of 68.86m, 71.31m and 72.79m.

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