Heroes, villains and memorable moments

Our Olympic Games team give their verdicts on the best and the worst from Athens


Paul Newman

Paul Newman

Hero of the Games

Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki. Fears over security, organisation and traffic congestion proved unfounded as the head of the Athens organising committee presided over a superbly run Games.

Unsung hero

Zara Hyde Peters, a UK Athletics coach, and Alison Rose, a physiotherapist. Kelly Holmes gave them credit for keeping her focused on winning a second gold in the 1500m after her 800m triumph.

Villain of the games

The International Olympic Committee, which refused to redistribute the men's all-round gymnastic medals, despite admitting that a scoring error had given America's Paul Hamm gold instead of South Korea's Yang Tae-young.

Most memorable moment

Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins and Rob Hayles recovering from a crash in the track cycling madison to win bronze and give Wiggins his third medal of the Games. Post-war, only Mary Rand achieved this - in 1964.

Worst moment

The Australian women's eight rowing crew lambasting one of their team, Sally Robbins, who collapsed with a quarter of the final remaining, costing them a possible medal.

Funniest or strangest moment

Matthew Emmons, a 23-year-old American accountant, squandering a certain gold in the 50-metre rifle three position event by shooting at the target of an Austrian rival in the next lane on his final shot.

Athlete to look out for in Beijing

The American sprinter Lauryn Williams, 20 years old and just 5ft 3in tall, won silver in the 100m here and can dominate the event in years to come.

Athens 2004 was the games when...

... experience proved golden. Shirley Robertson (36), Kelly Holmes (34) and Matthew Pinsent (33) led the way for Britain, but could not match the German canoeist Birgit Fischer, who won her eighth gold medal, 24 years after her first.

Mike Rowbottom

Hero of the Games

Who else could it be but Kelly Holmes? Like Steve Ovett in 1980, she won the race she wasn't supposed to. But unlike the great Ovett, she then also managed to win the race she was supposed to. Incredible stuff.

Unsung hero

The Australian cameraman with a ponytail obliged to work 12-hour shifts in the water polo venue without following any of the play. His job was getting reaction shots from the bench. A lot of people did a lot of dull things to make it all work.

Villain of the Games

The unknown athletes who may have cheated at these Games, and know it. The excuse that everyone else is at it isn't good enough. Not everyone else is.

Most memorable moment

The frozen grin on the face of Maurice Greene, the self-proclaimed "greatest of all time", as a whooping Mark Lewis-Francis celebrated Britain's least predicted gold medal performance at the track in the men's 4x100m relay.

Worst moment

Seeing Paula Radcliffe after she had dropped out of the marathon, sitting wretchedly on a grass verge and looking over her shoulder to see if the TV camera was watching. Which, of course, we all were.

Funniest or strangest moment

Seeing the US former Olympic champion Allen Johnson bring an end to his 110m hurdles career at the Games by stumbling and diving full length through the last of the barriers.

Athlete to look out for in Beijing

Mark Lewis-Francis. If he can really take belief from the victorious performance of the 4x100m relay team, and continue developing his extraordinary talent, he can fulfil Donovan Bailey's prediction of gold in the 100m at Athens.

Athens 2004 was the Games when...

... Athens proved that, while it wasn't Sydney, it was Athens, and rumours of the demise of its Olympic Games had been greatly exaggerated.

Nick Harris

Hero of the Games

Michael Phelps of the USA, who won eight medals, six gold, and was ridiculously under-celebrated because he didn't match Mark Spitz's seven golds.

Unsung hero

Dimitri Maggamas, a middle-aged US businessman of Greek origin who spent his holiday working in an Athens bus depot, exemplifying the volunteer spirit.

Villain of the Games

Russia's Irina Korzhanenko, who tested positive after winning the shot put as the Games went back to their roots in Olympia.

Most memorable moment

Kelly Holmes' 800m final win, as deliciously executed and poetic (not least in the last 150 metres) as it was unexpected.

Worst moment

Melanie Marshall, world No 1 in the 200m freestyle, crying after finishing last in the semi-final.

Funniest or strangest moment

The "top-bombing", tutu-clad interloper at the men's 3m springboard synchronised diving. So shocked were the Chinese pair that they flunked from first to nowhere, leaving Greece to win gold (their first of the Games) before a frenzied, Zorba-stomping crowd.

Athlete to look out for in Beijing

David Davies, 19, from Cardiff, who showed talent and guts to win a 1500m freestyle bronze and, with continued work, can go one or two places better.

Athens 2004 was the games when...

... you asked yourself "Are they on drugs?" of practically every competitor, especially runners, even if they were regarded as heroically clean back at home.

Simon Turnbull

Hero of the Games

Kelly Holmes. After all the years of heartache, all of her dreams came true in two glorious, golden moments.

Unsung hero

Coni Pfohl, the German archer who was seven months pregnant when she competed here, an Olympic record.

Villain of the Games

Whoever was responsible for setting a 6pm start for the marathons in order to accommodate television audiences in the United States instead of an early-morning time to suit the athletes.

Most memorable moment

Mark Lewis-Francis holding off Maurice Greene of the United States on the last leg of the 4x100m relay to win the gold medal. It was a simply stunning performance.

Worst moment

Watching Paula Radcliffe grind to a halt, disorientated and distressed, on the road from Marathon with the whole world watching.

Funniest or strangest moment

Ezekiel Kemboi turning to encourage his two Kenyan team-mates with a wave with 130 metres still to go in the steeplechase final.

Athlete to look out for in Beijing

Liu Xiang. If he can equal Colin Jackson's 110m hurdles record as a 21-year-old as he did in Athens, imagine what he can do on home ground.

Athens 2004 was the games when...

... The United States men's 4x100m relay team did not get to pose and preen on a victory lap. The Brits showed them how to win gracefully.

Nick Townsend

Hero of the Games

Ian Thorpe. Five golds from two Olympics, and still a hungry predator, despite suspicions that he may have been vulnerable to attack. The Aussie demonstrated in the 200m freestyle that he remains pre-eminent in the pool.

Unsung hero

Robert Hayles, the partner of Bradley Wiggins in track cycling's madison final, without whose presence of mind in getting to his feet and continuing after a collision Wiggins would not have claimed a third medal.

Villain of the Games

The Russian shot-putter Irina Korzhanenko, who tested positive for steroids. She was only one of 20, but the fact that she had competed at Olympia, the birthplace of the modern Games, makes her guilty of sacrilege as well as stupidity.

Most memorable moment

The British triumph in the final of the men's four, which yielded Matthew Pinsent his fourth Olympic gold. Rowing finals rarely produce memorable finishes. This was one.

Worst moment

The Greek athletes who tried to emulate Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. The timing could not have been more embarrassing to the organisers and the IOC, but it emphasised to all that the drug-hunters were on a serious mission.

Funniest or strangest moment

When Chris Newton did a "Paula" during his cycling points race final. In an impossible position, he departed with 90 of 160 laps completed. He dismounted, grabbed a spare machine and cycled straight out of the Velodrome.

Athlete to look out for in Beijing

Cyclist Vicky Pendleton, in the women's sprint and 500m time trial. The 20-year-old from Hitchin finished ninth in the sprint and sixth in the time trial final here, but 2008 was always her target.

Athens 2004 was the games when...

... Kelly Holmes suddenly stopped being one of the "best of the losers", and the anti-drugs war was finally seen to be being waged in earnest.

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