NEWS

Track and field begins

Close to the Games’ halfway mark, and with a thrilling competition in the main swimming pool drawing to an end, the focus of the the Athens Olympics moved to the main stadium yesterday with the beginning of track-and-field events. In the pool, the indisputable star of these Games so far, Michael Phelps of the United States, won his fifth gold and seventh medal overall by just beating his teammate Ian Crocker in the 100-meter butterfly. Phelps had the right to swim in the final of the 400-meter medley relay today and, even though he allowed a teammate to take his place, if the US team wins, he will gain his sixth gold and eighth medal overall, according to Agence France-Presse. This medal tally would tie with Soviet gymnast Aleksandr Dityatin’s record from the 1980 Moscow Games which the United States and many other Western countries boycotted. Mark Spitz of the United States set the record for gold medals with seven wins at the Munich Olympics in 1972. «He’s a great champion,» International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said of Phelps after watching him win yesterday. «Definitely, he is going to be one of the icons of the Games.» In the main stadium, which spent the week being readied for track-and-field events after last Friday’s opening ceremony, the Games went into top gear. The first gold medalist in the stadium was Italy’s Ivano Brugnetti, who won the 20-kilometer race. He finished in a personal best time of 1 hour, 19 minutes, 39 seconds, five seconds ahead of Francisco Fernandez of Spain. Nathan Deakes of Australia was third. Athens 2004 spokesman Serapheim Kotrotsos described yesterday as «Super Friday.» He added: «We have 29 Olympic events running at the same time today and we are expecting 200,000 spectators.» Among the Greek athletes competing in the stadium today are Fanni Halkia, who is running in the 400-meter hurdles and triple jumpers Chrysopygi Devedzi, Olga Vasdeki and Athanassia Perra. Gogo Tsiligiri and Aphrodite Skafida will be competing in the pole vault event. The women’s 100-meter and discus finals will be held today.