More success for Greece’s athletes as drugs issue lingers

A number of impressive results in several sports marked Greece’s participation over the weekend. However, the shadow of the doping scandals, which has now engulfed a third athlete, weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis, is still weighing heavily. Greece officially gained its third gold medal on Saturday, in sailing. In the 470 class, Sophia Bekatorou and Emilia Tsoulfa had wrapped up victory long before the final race, in which they did not bother to challenge for the lead, ending in 21st place. The result, their worst over the 11 races, will not count, according to competition rules. Bekatorou and Tsoulfa ended with 38 net penalty points, 24 ahead of runners-up Natalia Via Dufresne and Sandra Azon of Spain. Bekatorou, 27, and Tsoulfa, 31, were among the favorites, having won the World Championships from 2001 to 2003. Bekatorou’s serious back injury prevented them for adding a fourth world title in May 2004. Bekatorou was immediately operated on and, despite doctors’ advice, went back into training in early July. On Saturday, Anastasia Kelesidou, one of three Greek finalists in the women’s discus, won her second successive Olympic silver medal with a 66.68-meter throw. For his career’s finale, weightlifting triple-gold medalist Pyrros Dimas, 33, bid farewell with a bronze medal. Early yesterday, Vassilis Polymeros and Nikos Skiathitis won the bronze medal in the men’s lightweight double sculls, by overtaking a Danish crew in the final stages of the 2-kilometer race. The Greek duo’s time was 6 minutes, 23.23 seconds, while the winners, Tomasz Kucharski and Robert Sycz of Poland, finished in 6 minutes, 20.93 seconds. Not widely known in Greece, Polymeros, 28, and Skiathitis, 23, had placed fifth in the lightweight double sculls in the 2002 World Championships. They were also part of the crew that placed second in the lightweight quadruple sculls in the 2001 Worlds. Nikos Kaklamanakis, who earned a second and third place in the Mistral (windsurfing) class on Saturday, is in third place overall with 33 penalty points. With three more races to go, he is six points behind the leader, Gal Fridman of Israel. In the Finn class, Emilios Papathanassiou finished in fifth place, while Iordanis Paschalidis and Christos Garefis were eighth in the Tornado class. In track and field, Fanni Halkia won her semifinal in the 400-meter hurdles last night with an Olympic record of 52.78 seconds after setting a national record in the previous round. Pigi Devetzi qualified first for the triple-jump final with a major 15.32-meter leap, just 18 centimeters short of the world record. Veteran Olga Vasdeki also qualified, with a 14.54-meter leap. Stavroula Zygouri reached the semifinals of the 63kg category in the women’s freestyle wrestling yesterday, while Antonis Petris was one of 10 riders, out of 77, who qualified for the jumping final with no penalty points. In team sports, the men’s basketball team reached the final eight, as did the women’s after defeating Japan 93-91 yesterday. The women’s water polo team beat Russia 7-4 yesterday to reach the semifinals, while the men’s team edged out Australia 10-9 to ensure a place in the quarterfinals. The men’s volleyball team also qualified for the quarterfinals, by defeating France 3-2 on Saturday.

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