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‘Cheetah man’ scorches track
- Shawn Crawford leads American 1-2-3 in 200m - Korzeniowski wins fourth Olympic gold

Athens: If the 100m winner is the fastest man in the world, is the 200m winner the second-fastest' Not really. Similar ‘beasts’ run the distances, but they run differently. Hence Shawn Crawford, who managed only fourth place in the 100m, raced to victory in the 200, in a personal best time of 19.79 seconds (as reported in Friday’s Late City edition).

The Indian women’s relay team entered the 4x 400m final, late on Friday.

Bernard Williams came in second at 20.01 and 100m champion Justin Gatlin came in for bronze at 20.03. A US sweep.

That was the highlight of Thursday evening at the Olympic Stadium’s athletic events. It was a race that took time settling down into the tracks as the crowd shouted and screamed at what they called “injustice” of keeping local 200m hero Kostas Kenteris out because of a dope scandal. They booed and booed, delaying the start, but when it did, action was electric. And Crawford looked the winner throughout.

The athletes said later they had “an inkling earlier that such a thing (the booing etc) would happen,” so it did not affect their concentration. And this time Crawford made no mistake.

From what he said, he just ran the race the way he had to. I never knew I had won the race, I will have to watch the replay,” he said.

It was interesting to see the camaraderie among the Americans. On Thursday Crawford, and not Gatlin, was the hero. The two gave him all the space. Gatlin also made it clear, when he said that he actually wanted a clean sweep for the US. That was the target.

Crawford, world indoor champion, also known as ‘the Cheetah man’, had appeared in a US television programme ‘Man vs Beast’ last year where he raced a zebra and a giraffe. He beat the giraffe but lost to the zebra. He said later “I think I can beat the zebra now...”

It was another bad day for Namibia’s Frankie Fredericks, on his swansong Olympics, qualifying well from the first semi-final but finishing fourth at 20.14 in the final.

There were heroics on Friday, in a less glamorous event, places where real heroes are actually found. In the men’s 50km walk, a distance greater than the marathon, the attention was fixed on Robert Korzeniowski of Poland, who was on way to his fourth Olympic gold.

Korzeniowski, known to be the greatest walker ever, won in 3::38:46, just missing the record (3::38:29) set by Soviet Russia’s Vyacheslav Ivanenko at the Seoul Games in 1988.

Korzeniowski had won this title as well as the 20km walk gold in Sydney. Add to that the 50km gold in Atlanta.

The hero was the silver winner, Russian Denis Nizhegorodov. The 24-year-old world record-holder (3::35:29) had a painful finish. Just before entering the stadium, he could not go on any more. He stood, he fell, was helped up, and could barely stand on his feet. That’s the stuff folk tales are made of. The crowd cheered him on, and, in the land of the marathon, he struggled to the finish at 3::42:50.

The other spotlight event was the men’s 400m hurdles. There were competitors and there was Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic. At five feet 11 inches, he isn’t typical hurdler material at this level.

There were towering ones around. But he proved every inch of his effort, pulling away on the home stretch, way ahead of the field to win in 47.63 seconds.

Danny McFarlene of Jamaica came in second at 48.11, while Naman Keita of France was third at 48.26. Times were moderate possibly because of a false start, not too many of those have happened at these Olympic Games.

The men’s long jump was won by world champion Dwight Philips of the US at 8.59m, achieved on the first try. John Moffit of the US and Spain’s Joan Lino Martinez followed, at 8.47m and 8.32m, respectively. Ivan Pedroso of Cuba was strangely at 8.23, to be seventh.

In the women’s high jump qualifiers, Indian Bobby Aloysius moved out with a below-par performance. The qualifying was set at 1.95m and with her 1.91m (national record) from the Chennai nationals, she expected more. But quite like the others, she flopped.

She managed the starting 1.75 on first try, as well as the 1.8. She managed 1.85 on two tries, and failed all three at the 1.89 mark. That was the end of her, finishing a poor 13th (tied).

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