New doping discovery overshadows field action

Yesterday’s events were overshadowed for the Greek team by the discovery of an additional doping case. Yet, however affected, competitors will have to go on, even if their performances risk fading into the background. In sailing, Greece will pick up its third gold medal today, as the duo of Sophia Bekatorou and Emilia Tsoulfa do not even need to race in the 11th and final race of the 470 class. There is also another medal prospect, windsurfer Nikos Kaklamanakis, who finished in sixth and 13th place, respectively, in the fifth and sixth race of the Mistral class. With five more races remaining, Kaklamanakis has 28 penalty points and is in fourth place, four points adrift of Poland’s Przemyslaw Miarczynski, who is in third place, and 10 behind class leader Ricardo Santos of Brazil. In the women’s Mistral, Athena Frai is in 13th place, with 54 penalty points, and far from medal contention. With a race to go in the Finn class, Emilios Papathanassiou is in fifth place, but it would take a major upset for him to move higher in the standings. Evangelos Chimona, in the Laser class, and Virginia Kravarioti, in the Europe class, are in 12th and 11th place, respectively. The track-and-field events, which will dominate the final week of the Games, began yesterday. Among Geek athletes, Katerina Voggoli in the discus and Christos Meletoglou, in the triple jump, qualified for the finals of their respective events. Anastassia Kelesidou was taking part in the discus throw’s second qualifying group late last night. Voggoli qualified easily with her first throw, which was well over the limit. She and Kelesidou are considered legitimate challengers for the gold medal and it would not be a huge surprise if they went one-two in the event. At 32, Christos Meletoglou is no longer the «young talent» who failed to live up to expectations. His qualification, with a jump of 17.06 meters, just 6 centimeters above the limit, was greeted as a pleasant surprise. He was fourth in his group, far behind the winner, and gold medal favorite, Christian Olsson of Sweden, but his was a season best and he is not under pressure to perform strongly in the final. If he manages to overcome the Greek jumpers’ curse – invalidated jumps – he may even go further. Yesterday, all three of his jumps were valid. Hammer thrower Alexandros Papadimitriou, the bronze medalist at the 2002 European Championships, had two invalid throws and, under pressure to perform, threw only 75.55 meters, five meters below his personal best. He was eighth in his group and, at the time of writing, was waiting for the results of Group B, with slender hopes of making the top 12 qualifiers. It would be an unfitting end to the Olympic career of this gifted athlete – unless he has the determination to give it one more try at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when he will be 35. Argyro Strataki, in the heptathlon, was aiming for a top-10 place. After four events, she was well within her target, staying close to the favorites. At the only men’s final yesterday, Lefteris Thanopoulos was a disappointing 36th in the 20-kilometer walk, about 10 and a half minutes adrift of first place. In other individual events, Alexandra Sourla was 24th in the dressage qualifier with 62.833 points and failed to qualify for the final. Nery Niagouara just failed to make the women’s 50-meter final, despite her setting a new Greek record of 25.27 seconds. In judo, Haralambos Papanikolaou made it the second round in the heavyweight category before losing twice. In weightlifting, Christina Ioannidi captured fifth place in the 75-kilo category with a total of 255 kilos. In team sports, the men’s handball team became the first to make it into the quarterfinals, by defeating Brazil 26-22 in a thrilling match. Greece took a halftime lead of 13-9 and defended it against furious attacks. Nikos Grammatikos scored seven goals in seven attempts. Other teams did not fare as well. The women’s basketball team was thrashed 77-40 by the superior Australian team and the women’s volleyball team struggled valiantly but lost 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-11) to Brazil. The softball team lost to Australia and was assured of seventh place overall.

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