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ATHENS 2004

Greeks Dive Into First Gold

Siranidis and Bimis surge on final attempt to give the host country an unexpected win in synchronized diving.

August 17, 2004|From Associated Press

ATHENS — It was a glorious surprise, igniting a party complete with song and dance: The Greeks won their first gold medal of their hometown Olympics with an unexpected victory Monday night in synchronized diving.

"I still can't believe it," gold medalist Nikolaos Siranidis said. "It feels like a fairy tale. It's hard for me to speak."

Fairy tale? No. Miracle? Not quite. But Siranidis and partner Thomas Bimis won the three-meter springboard gold that ignited the festivities after a series of twists and turns that ended badly for their opposition, including the Americans.

First, the favored Chinese team blew a 12-point lead by scoring zero on a disastrous final dive. Next, Russians Dmitry Suatin and Alexander Dobroskok botched their attempt, followed by a terrible landing from American brothers Troy and Justin Dumais, in second place and poised to win a medal.

Add the Greek pair's killer final dive -- a well-executed inward 3 1/2 somersault tuck -- and the celebration was on.

"We hope this is just the start, and there are more medals," Bimis said.

"Thomas Bimis and Nikolaos Siranidis with the gold medal that they won -- the first for our country in the Olympic Games of Athens -- proved that Greek sports has depth and future," said Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis. "To the two Olympic champions I express my hearty congratulations."

Greece earned a final-round score of 83.64 points and finished with 353.34. Andreas Wels and Tobias Schellenberg of Germany won the silver medal with 350.01 and Robert Newbery and Steven Barnett of Australia earned the bronze with 349.59.

The Dumais brothers dropped to sixth with 327.06.

"We have to give it to Greece," Troy said.

"They did a heck of a job and performed the best tonight. Three out of the eight teams completely missed their final-round dives, with us being one of them. Whoever does their job and performs is going to be on the medal stand."

Troy Dumais has a chance to bounce back on the individual springboard, but his brother's Olympic career is over.

"I am just glad that I had the opportunity to be here and compete with my brother, and not too many people can say that," Justin said. "I feel closer to Troy right now than I ever have, and to me family is everything. No one is going to remember who won the medal tomorrow, but I am going to have my brother forever."

When the results became official, Greek music echoed through the venue and the dancing started. Siranidis and Bimis jumped onto a practice board, and after a slight slip on the slippery deck -- the first time they stumbled all night -- they waved a Greek flag up and down and encouraged the raucous local fans.

"We are a nation with heart," Greek coach Peter Firigos said.

The celebration continued right up to the Greek national anthem and medal presentation, with chants of "Hellas" -- as the country is called in Greek -- and more dancing as the music slowed down.

China's final-round landing was so bad that the dive earned no points and dropped Bo Peng and Kenan Wang into last place. It was a sharp turnaround from the first three synchronized events, each of which was won by China.

The Russian pair of Sautin and Dobroskok finished seventh.

Earlier, Lao Lishi and Li Ting of China easily won the women's 10-meter platform competition.

With a total of 352.14 points, Lao and Li added to their title from the world championships in Barcelona last year. Natalia Goncharova and Yulia Koltunova of Russia got the silver with 340.92, and Blythe Hartley and Emilie Heymans of Canada took the bronze at 327.78.

The American team of Sara Hildebrand and Cassandra Cardinell finished seventh.

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