NEWS

Sailing duo clinches gold

Greece’s Sophia Bekatorou and Emilia Tsoulfa wrapped up the country’s third gold medal yesterday, with one race to spare, after dominating the 470 category regatta. And 21-year-old Nery Niagouara, the first Greek woman to qualify for the 100-meter freestyle swimming final, came sixth, breaking her own Greek record in a time of 54.81 seconds. Bekatorou and Tsoulfa, the 2003 world champions, were overjoyed with their first Olympic victory seconds after crossing the line second in the 10th race, which gave them victory overall without having to contest tomorrow’s final race. They congratulated each other with a kiss, raised the Greek flag on their mast and dived into the water. They then overturned their dinghy and stood on its hull, celebrating to the cheers of onlookers and support crews. Bekatorou, 26, and Tsoulfa, 31, won five of their races and came second in another three. They were allowed to disregard their worst result (a 14th place on Wednesday). The excellent performance by the sailing duo helped ease Greeks’ pain at the withdrawal for the Games of their two top sprinters – Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou – in a cloud of suspicion after they failed to show up for a mandatory doping test last Thursday. «This is an answer to those who lost their faith in us and those who lose their faith in athletes generally, who go from supporting them one day to forgetting them the next,» Bekatorou said after yesterday’s race. She and Tsoulfa were a disappointing seventh in Sydney. «It is the sweetest feeling in the world to be a golden Olympian. And it is a new feeling for us and we want to share it with all the Greeks. Our victory may look simple because we were far ahead in the overall standings, but the weather gave us a hard time and we had to take risks at some points,» Bekatorou said. The two are the third Greek champions in Olympic sailing history. Nikos Kaklamanakis won gold for windsurfing in the 1996 and is competing in the Mistral class, and Greece’s former king, Constantine, won in the Dragon class in 1960. In the swimming, Niagouara was up against the current world recordholder, Australia’s Jodie Henry, who won in a time of 53.84, and a former recordholder, the Netherlands’ Inge de Bruijn, who came second.