alchemists turn dreams into gold
Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu.
IN THE NEWS
turn dreams into gold
In a feat that would have made ancient alchemists green with envy, Chile's Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu turned sweat, tears and raw desire into solid gold at the Olympic Games.
The small South American nation had waited more than 80 years for a gold medal at an Olympics and in an Athenian amphitheatre they won two in less than 24 hours.
Gonzalez and Massu bagged the nation's first in a memorable marathon that started on Saturday and ended on Sunday. They beat Germany's Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schuettler 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4.
"It's a wonderful thing for Chile," Gonzalez said, and the Chilean people responded, partying long into the night in Santiago.
Massu, without a single victory on hardcourt all year heading into the Olympics, defied conventional wisdom and the form book less than 24 hours later by beating American Mardy Fish for the men's singles gold medal in another five-set tussle 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
The rest, as they say, was hysteria, as the stadium erupted in a din of Chilean roars and tears and Massu took to the medal podium with Gonzalez — winner of the singles bronze medal — at his side.
"I can't believe it ... these have been the best two days of my life," an emotional Massu said.
"It is just incredible for Chile. We are a small country and this is amazing. All my life I looked up to the Olympics. To be here is enough but to win gold... to win two golds, well..."
Women's world No 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne had just as much to smile about as she confounded the pundits to win gold in her first tournament after three months away from the sport.
The Belgian had struggled since mid-April with a mystery viral illness which left her weak and fearful for her career and had not played since surrendering her French Open crown in May.
But in a clash of the world's top two players she beat France's Amelie Mauresmo 6-3, 6-3 in the gold medal match to inherit Venus Williams's title.
"Still, a month ago, I didn't know if I was going to be able to come here," she smiled. "And now I won the gold medal.
"This is a great moment in my career ... it's amazing — I am very proud."
China picked up its first Olympic tennis gold when Li Ting and Sun Tian Tian rolled over Spain's Conchita Martinez and Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-3, 6-3.
The Chinese pair were ecstatic, taking off on a run round the arena with tears in their eyes and a Chinese flag draped round their shoulders.
While the Chinese embarked on unfettered celebration, former Wimbledon champion Martinez was left hankering for gold. The 32-year-old has a doubles silver medal from Barcelona in 1992 and a bronze from Atlanta in 1996 — both won with Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.
"Gold is fantastic, but silver is not so bad," she smiled sadly.
Losing men's doubles finalist Nicolas Kiefer found it impossible to find Martinez's stoicism.
Before coming to Athens, American Michael Phelps had a dream. To win seven gold medals to emulate the legendary Mark Spitz. He could not realise that dream as he finished one short but he equalled another legend's record, albeit from a different sport.
With six gold and two bronze, the 19-year-old matched Soviet gymnast Aleksandr Dityatin, who achieved the feat at 1980 Moscow Olympics. Phelps also swam true toe-Olympic hype.
Dubbed 'The Baltimore Barracuda' by one of his high school teachers, Phelps is already looking forward to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 to have a crack at Spitz's record.
The teenager won the gold medals in 100m butterfly, 200m butterfly, 4x100m medley relay, 4x100m freestyle relay, 4x200m freestyle relay and 400m individual medley.
In one of the greatest 200m races, saw three rivals — Ian Thorpe, Pieter van den Hoogenband and Michael Phelps — lined up.
Phelps not only won gold but has also shown to have a heart of gold. He made way for team-mate Ian Crocker in the 4x100m relay, after besting him in the 100m butterfly. The teenager has many more gold and records in him and will be more than happy to continue swimming till 2012.
Australian Ian Thorpe may have been overshadowed by the younger American Michael Phelps in the Athens pool but he had his own moments of glory nonetheless.
Thorpedo won two gold medals, a silver and a bronze to become the most successful Australian Olympian ever. In the process he overtook the legendary Dawn Fraser and Murray Rose. Thorpedo now has a total of five gold, three silver and a bronze in two Olympics. He holds the world records in 200m, 400m and 800m.
Thorpe has also made it known that he intended concentrating on the shorter events. He not only successfully defended his 400m freestyle title but also got the better of old rival Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband in the 200m, avenging his defeat in Sydney. He also finished a creditable third in the 100m.
End of a reign
Age and hubris finally seems to have caught up with the self-styled 'queen of the asymmetric bars', Svetlana Khorkina.
Intending to become the first gymnast to win the third Olympic gold in the same apparatus event, Khorkina not only slipped, but also fell to the bottom. She still had the grace, the same gliding movements which fetched her two Olympic titles but she didn't have the same grip.
At 25, she was already the senior statesperson in her sport, full of teenagers. But she had full faith that she could best them and come out on top.
"I look around and I can't find any shining gymnasts now. My strongest rival is myself. If I am capable of defeating myself, I shouldn't bother with the others," she had said before the games started.
After ending up second
best for the all-round title, Khorkina pinned her hopes on her favourite
event, eneven bars, to create Olympic history. That was not to be as she
lost her grip and ended last. Not the best way for a double Olympic
champion to bow out.
Cricket team disappoints
The way the Indian cricket team faced the Pakistan bowling in the Videocon Cup in Holland has not only disappointed every cricket fan in India but also justified Pakistan’s victory against India in the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka.
The most disgusting fact was that it was a 33-over match and the team with a pampered batting line-up could not last their full quota of overs and collapsed with more than seven overs remaining.
The time has come to purge the team of players who have failed to show consistency.
Kudos to Lanka
Marvan Atapattu, captain of the Sri Lankan cricket team, and all his team-mates deserve heartiest congratulations for winning the Asia Cup beating the Indian cricket team by 25 runs. The team played with devotion, dedication and vigour.
Well done Atapattu! Keep it up.
Subhash C. Taneja
The Amateur Athletic Federation of India dropped budding long jumper of Punjab, Amritpal Singh, who had smashed the 30-year-old national record of T.C. Yohanan, from the Indian contingent for the Olympics. The explanation by Mr Lalit Bhanot that Amritpal was not showing improvement is unacceptable. Long jumper Anju Bobby George utilised a huge amount of public money on her training in the USA (Rs 25 lakh) but not once did she achieve a distance of 6.74 metres on foreign soil.
Why discriminate against Amritpal Singh? He is a budding athlete and should have been encouraged.