Aussies capture gold, silver

Updated: August 14, 2004, 4:45 PM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Ian Thorpe of Australia won a gold medal in the Olympic race he almost didn't get to compete in, edging countryman Grant Hackett in the 400-meter freestyle Saturday night. American Klete Keller won the bronze.

Ian Thorpe won his second straight 400 freestyle gold.
Thorpe touched the wall first in 3 minutes, 43.10 seconds, well off his world-record time, but enough to win 400 gold for the second straight Olympics.

Hackett took silver in 3:43.35, while Keller, of Phoenix, claimed the bronze with an American record of 3:44.11. The American finished third in the same race four years ago at Sydney.

Thorpe came into the Olympics with the eight fastest times ever, including the world record of 3:40.08 at the Commonwealth Games two years ago. But he was fortunate just to get a shot at the race in Athens.

At the Australian trials, he inexplicably fell off the starting block and was disqualified. He got to race his favorite event only after teammate Craig Stevens gave up his spot.

"I didn't realize how much this event meant to me," said Thorpe, who fought back tears after touching the wall. "I am more excited now that it is off my shoulders."

Thorpe's primary challenger was Hackett, a distance star heavily favored in the 1,500 free. He was fastest during the morning prelims, earning the prime lane position with a time of 3:46.36.

But Hackett couldn't overtake the Thorpedo in the final.

Another American, 18-year-old Larsen Jensen of Bakersfield, Calif., took fourth in 3:46.08. The reigning silver medalist, Massimiliano Rosolino of Italy, finished fifth.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press