Crowd turn on sprinters over Kederis affair

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The Independent Online

Konstandinos Kederis relinquished his Olympic 200m title in absentia here yesterday - but it was almost as if the stadium was filled with his angry spirit as the 70,000 crowd jeered and whistled before the start, venting their wrath particularly on the United States runners who eventually took gold, silver and bronze: Shawn Crawford, Bernard Williams and Justin Gatlin.

Konstandinos Kederis relinquished his Olympic 200m title in absentia here yesterday - but it was almost as if the stadium was filled with his angry spirit as the 70,000 crowd jeered and whistled before the start, venting their wrath particularly on the United States runners who eventually took gold, silver and bronze: Shawn Crawford, Bernard Williams and Justin Gatlin.

While the former champion prepares to undergo an investigation by the International Association of Athletics Federations into the doping scandal which saw both him and fellow Greek sprinter Ekaterina Thanou suspended from the Games, those who had bought tickets months ago to see him defend his title were offering their own vociferous comment on the situation.

The deep, rhythmic chanting of "Hellas, Hellas" mocked the bright orange request on the scoreboard - "Quiet for the start". Eventually it took requests in Greek, French and English to reduce the level of noise to an angry buzz.

When Gatlin or Crawford's face was flashed up, the whistling reintensified. The two Americans looked faintly sick. As for their comrade Williams, the part-time stand-up comedian, his odd little facial antics for the camera were going down like raw souvlaki. Never had Williams's dazzling, trademark smile looked more glassy. Never had an Olympic track final got under way amid such scenes.

The investigation into the Kederis and Thanou affair, passed on by the International Olympic Committee after both athletes had voluntarily quit the Games, is likely to be concluded by the end of the year, an IAAF spokesman maintained. "It is a serious matter and we realise the credibility of Greek sport and the IAAF is at stake," he said. "There is a council meeting at the beginning of December and that is probably the latest date this case will be concluded. Until then, the athletes are free to race."

But not here, to the chagrin of many. Crawford and Gatlin, training partners together under Marion Jones's former coach Trevor Graham, aroused indignation with their jokey antics in qualifying. It became clear that the ill feeling in the stadium was not directed universally when Frankie Fredericks earned a huge roar of acclaim when he was introduced before the race.

Crawford, who came to Athens as the world's fastest man this season, was expected to win, and he did, moving away from his compatriots in the final 70 metres to finish in a personal best of 19.79sec, with Williams also clocking a personal best of 20.01 and Gatlin, winner of Sunday night's 100m, recording 20.03.

Jamaica's Asafa Powell, who entered these Games with high hopes after successive defeats of the 2000 Olympic 100m champion Maurice Greene, left with nothing, failing to start last night's final because of a hamstring injury.

Chris Tomlinson produced his best competition performance at the perfect time here, but it was not quite enough to earn him a medal in the long jump. The 6ft 6in Middlesbrough athlete produced an opening effort of 8.25 metres, just two centimetres short of his British record, which put him in silver medal position after the first round of jumps.

But Tomlinson was unable to improve, and eventually slipped back to fifth place in a competition won by the favourite, Dwight Phillips, whose own opening jump of 8.59m proved sufficient for the gold.

"I never thought that my opener was enough to get a medal," Tomlinson said. "I may have looked distraught after my last jump, but I know I've had my best competition ever."

Kelly Holmes's ambition of winning an 800 and 1,500m double remained a going concern after she qualified with calm efficiency from her semi-final, eyeballing the race winner Natalya Yevdokimova after moving through from sixth in the final straight.

If the whole performance looked icy calm, there was an unusual explanation. Holmes revealed afterwards that she had been in a restorative ice bath with fellow 1500m runner Jo Pavey until 1.30am.

"I've got more than I expected in the 800m already," she said. "I know I'm in good shape. Tonight I was just concerned about getting into the final. My gold medal is on my bed in my room and I keep stroking it. It will be worn out by the time I get home. I'm trying to forget I have it but it's obviously very hard."

Felix Sanchez sealed his reputation as the world's leading 400m hurdler with a conclusive victory in a season's best of 47.63sec after the challenge of his main rival, James Carter, faltered at the penultimate hurdle. Carter stayed on his knees with head on the track after being run out of the medals. It was not an easy night for the Americans.

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