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Last Updated: Friday, 27 August, 2004, 00:25 GMT 01:25 UK
Crawford overcomes Kenteris clamour
By Phil Gordos
BBC Sport in Athens

Greek fans at the Olympics
The Greek fans held up the start by about five minutes

Thursday was the night every Greek had marked down in their diary weeks and months ago.

It was the night Kostas Kenteris was supposed to successfully defend his 200m crown in front of his adoring public.

But that script had to be ripped up when the Sydney gold medallist got caught up in a very public and very damaging drugs scandal on the eve of the Athens Games.

Thankfully, the host nation survived that crisis and has since gone on to unearth a new track star in women's 400m hurdler Fani Halkia.

But while Halkia may have replaced Kenteris as the number one sports star in Greece, the 70,000 fans packed into the Olympic Stadium on Thursday were keen to demonstrate that their former favourite has not yet been forgotten.

As the competitors in the men's 200m final took to their blocks, chants of 'Hellas Hellas' and 'Kenteris, Kenteris' began ringing out.

The Athens Olympics Stadium
The stadium officials had to plead for calm

Booing and whistling soon followed, unsettling some of the runners and delaying the start by around five minutes.

It was a significant gesture, one that indicated that the Greek public are not yet willing to wipe the name of Kenteris from their consciousness.

But that's all it was.

"We were forewarned by our coach that a situation like that may occur," said Shawn Crawford, who eventually took gold from compatiots Bernard Williams and Justin Gatlin in an American clean sweep.

"We were very prepared, so we were able to maintain our poise and focus."

Still, the new Olympic champion, who clocked a personal best of 19.79 seconds to win the final, was not entirely happy with the crowd's stance.

"I think I understood what they were going through," he said. "We are here at the birthplace of the Olympics, the defending champion is from Greece and he was not allowed to compete.

"I can understand that they were upset but I don't know why they had to react like this."

The effervescent Williams, who never seems fazed and loves nothing more than pulling faces at the television cameras in what should be the tensest of moments, agreed that the disruption had made little difference.

"It was fun for me," said the silver medallist. "When they were booing there was nothing we could do about it."

As for Gatlin, who added a bronze to the gold he won in the 100m, he insisted he had never allowed himself to become distracted.

"We train our whole lives for the Olympics," he said.

"We wish no hardship on any athlete, we understand the Greeks wanted their hometown favourite in the race but we were not going to let it put us off."

One man who did lose his cool was Frankie Fredericks. He appealed to the crowd for quiet, keen not to let the protest affect his chances of landing another medal in what is his final Olympics.

In the end, the Namibian, who turns 37 on 2 October, finished fourth and could not hold back the tears as he spoke to the media minutes after the race.

Frankie Fredericks
I wanted to go out with a medal but sometimes in life you don't always get what you want
Frankie Fredericks

With dozens of accolades already tucked under his belt, Fredericks wanted one more gong to add to his collection. Sadly, it was not to be.

"It's very emotional for me," said the four-time Olympic silver medallist, who is also a former 200m world champion.

"I wanted to go out with a medal but sometimes in life you don't always get what you want. I'll have to be satisfied with fourth."

Fredericks will always be remembered fondly by athletics fans around the world.

The same cannot yet be said of Crawford, impressive though he was in powering to Olympic gold.

And as for Kenteris, no amount of support from the stands could disguise the fact his reputation has been irrevocably tarnished by the events of the last two weeks.



Links to more Athletics stories


 

SEE ALSO
Kenteris delight at protest
27 Aug 04  |  Athletics
IAAF inquiry into Greek duo
26 Aug 04  |  Athletics


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