Women in polo final

Greece’s women’s water polo team yesterday became the first Greek team to reach the finals of an Olympic event, beating defending champions Australia 6-2. With the support of a raucous and ecstatic sellout home crowd, the Greeks stunned the Australians, with whom they had drawn 7-7 in their match in the group phase. The Greeks will now play against Italy, which came from behind to beat the United States 6-5 in their semifinal game. «We’d have preferred Australia to Greece because Greece has the home advantage, but a final is a final,» said Italy’s Alexandra Araujo, referring to tomorrow night’s match. Greece lost to Italy 7-2 in their group phase but will be hoping the impetus from yesterday’s victory and the crowd’s backing will help it win this time round. In Sydney, at the inaugural women’s water polo title, Australia had beaten the United States in the final. Now they will compete for third place. In today’s events, Greeks will be watching out for their newly emerged 400-meter women’s hurdles phenomenon, Fanni Halkia, who clocked 52.77sec in a new Olympic record and the fifth fastest time ever in her semifinal on Sunday. Halkia had been impressive in her first-round race but few could have expected the semifinal when she broke Deon Hemmings’s Olympic record of 52.82, set at the Atlanta Games in 1996. Last year, the 25-year-old former high jumper’s personal best was 56.40sec. Also, Mirella Manjani, Greece’s silver medalist in the women’s javelin in Sydney, will be competing today to get into the final. The limit for qualification is 61 meters, a distance she has easily passed in the past, though this year her best has been 58.92 meters. Other Greeks in the event are Angeliki Tsioulakoudi (with a best of 62.80) and Saba Lika (62.89). Also today, veteran women’s long jumper Niki Xanthou (with a best of 6.53 this year), Yiannoula Kafedzi (6.71) and Stella Pilatou (6.66) will be trying to clear the 6.65 limit to reach the finals. Among the men, Marios Evangelou will be taking part in the preliminaries of the pole vault. Last night, Tassos Gousis made it to the 200-meter semifinal, clocking 20.46 in the second round. Periklis Iakovakis, third in the 400-meter hurdles at last year’s world championships, came fourth in the semifinal and did not make the final.

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