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Her Victory Is One for Home Team

August 26, 2004|Alan Abrahamson

ATHENS — Buoyed by an adoring home crowd, Fani Halkia of Greece breezed to victory here Wednesday in the women's 400-meter hurdles.

Flamboyant in pink-tinted sunglasses, a Greek flag tattooed on her shoulder, Halkia finished in 52.82 seconds, Olympic Stadium awash in noise and fluttering blue and white Greek flags.

"I could feel the stadium rocking," she said.

Ionela Manolache of Romania took silver in 53.38, Tetyana Tereshchuk-Antipova of Ukraine bronze in 53.44.

UCLA's Sheena Johnson, the U.S. trials champion, was fourth in 53.83, running in the outside lane. Brenda Taylor of Chula Vista finished seventh in 54.97.

In the semifinals, Halkia set an Olympic record of 52.77 seconds. She has lowered her time in the event by more than 3 1/2 seconds over the last season.

Such progress is unusual at the elite level, but Halkia confronted doping-related questions head-on after her victory, saying she'd won without illicit chemical help.

"I wanted to show the world that the Greeks were born to conquer the top," she said. "We do not need crutches to make it."

-- Alan Abrahamson

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