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Last Updated: Monday, 23 August, 2004, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
Dobrev gatecrashes Greek party
By Phil Gordos
BBC Sport in Athens

The Greeks suffered their very own tragedy just 24 hours after Britain was forced to witness the tearful demise of gold medal hope Paula Radcliffe, her dreams of marathon glory blistered by the intense heat of Athens.

Weightlifter Akakios Kakiasvilis was attempting to defy the onset of time by winning a fourth consecutive Olympic title at the age of 35.

It was a huge task but one the Greek public expected him to fulfil, hundreds of fans packing into the Nikaia Weighlifting Hall to cheer on their Georgian-born hero.

But the night was to end in disappointment.

Kakiasvilis finished outside of the medals, failing to complete a lift in the clean and jerk for the first time in his career.

Maybe the Greeks were expecting too much.

With countryman Pyrros Dimas also failing to win a fourth gold in successive Games just 48 hours earlier and Leonidas Sampanis losing the bronze medal he won in the 62kg category after a positive drugs test, Kakiasvilis was their last big hope.

I want to give happiness to the Greek people in Beijing
Akakios Kakiasvilis

His supporters raised the roof whenever he came out to lift, chanting his name and turning the arena into a sea of blue and white flags.

And when one journalist began chattering rather too loudly on his mobile phone just as "Kaki" prepared to hoist the bar over his head, the unfortunate hack was almost dragged out of the stadium and lynched.

But despite the phenomenal backing, Kakiasvilis could not deliver.

With his best years behind him, the younger generation sensed their time was near.

And when he could only manage 180kg in the snatch, the likes of Milen Dobrev and Khadjimourad Akkaev went in for the kill.

As soon as it became clear Kakiasvilis was going to go home empty-handed, his fans started heading for the exits in droves, unwilling to wait for his burial and the coronation of a new weightlifting king.

Bulgaria's Milen Dobrev on the podium
Dobrev's victory silenced the fiercely partisan crowd

After Dobrev had been crowned the 94kg champion and the arena had emptied, Kakiasvilis eventually came out to face the media.

He was disappointed, naturally, but vowed to fight on, revealing he had no plans to quit and pledging to repair the damage to his reputation.

"I want to give happiness to the Greek people in Beijing," he said.

"I know I will be older but it's what I want to do."

Kakiasvilis will be 39 when the next Olympics come around.

Bulgarian Dobrev, on the other hand, will be just 28, probably stronger than he already is and definitely determined to hang on to his title.

If Kakiasvilis thought it was going to be hard to win Olympic gold in 2004, it will be nigh on impossible in 2008.

And with no Greek crowd to cheer his every move in China, he could be heading for an even bigger fall than the one he suffered in Athens.





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SEE ALSO
Dobrev earns Bulgaria gold
23 Aug 04  |  Weightlifting


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