Americans finish with 24 track medals

Updated: August 29, 2004, 9:41 AM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Hicham El Guerrouj became the first man in 80 years to win the 1,500 and 5,000 meters at one Olympics, holding up two fingers in triumph Saturday after outsprinting the world record holder down the final straightaway of the 5,000.

But El Guerrouj, who won the 1,500 on Tuesday, was only the second person within a half-hour to pull off a rare middle-distance double. Briton Kelly Holmes won the 1,500 just before El Guerrouj's race, adding to the 800 title she won on Monday.

"I feel like I'm going to wake up tomorrow and have to run the whole damn thing over again," Holmes said. "It's so surreal. I won, but I was so mentally and physically drained."

Despite victories in the men's and women's 1,600-meter relays, it was another disappointing night at the track for an American team that came to Athens expecting a sweep of the four relays. Instead, they took gold in both 1,600-meter relays.

Breaux Greer, who had hoped to become the first American to win the javelin since Cyrus Young in 1952, finished last of the 12 finalists with a best throw of 243 feet, 11 inches -- nearly 43 feet off his personal best. Greer was competing despite a torn knee ligament that required him to wear a plastic brace on his right leg.

The U.S. team ended up with 24 track and field medals, the most since 30 in 1992. The men had 18 of those -- also the best showing by Americans since 1992 -- but the women's six medals were the fewest since three in 1976.

El Guerrouj, a Moroccan, passed Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia with about 50 meters left and finished in 13 minutes, 14.39 seconds, smiling and extending his arms in triumph as he crossed the finish line. He kissed his hands and his right knee before touching his head to the track in prayer.

Then he took off his new shoes and ran a victory lap in bare but bandaged feet. He had worn shoes that were too small during qualifying.

Bekele, who was trying to become the first man in 24 years to win the 5,000 and 10,000 at an Olympics, finished second in 13:14.59. Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, who led until the final lap, won bronze in 13:15.10.

"I was quite tired because of the 10,000 meters and the semifinals (of the 5,000)," Bekele said. "It was not an easy race. The Ethiopians tried to run together, but today that wasn't enough for me to win."

The only other man ever to win the 1,500 and 5,000 in an Olympics was Paavo Nurmi, who did it in 1924.

Holmes broke free of the pack in the final 100 meters to capture gold in the 1,500 in 3:57.90. The 34-year-old former army sergeant became the third woman in Olympic history to win both events at one games, joining Svetlana Masterkova in 1996 and Tatyana Kazankina in 1976.

Tatyana Tomashova of Russia won the silver in 3:58.12. Maria Cioncan of Romania got the bronze in 3:58.39.

Other winners Saturday, the last night of track and field action at Olympic Stadium, included a pair of Russians -- Yuriy Borzakovskiy rallied from fourth place on the final straightaway to win the men's 800 meters and Yelena Slesarenko set an Olympic record of 6-9 to win gold in the women's high jump.

Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway won the javelin.

"I didn't know that I was going to win today," Slesarenko said. "I came in full of hopes and I achieved my goal."

Two-time world champion Hestrie Cloete of South Africa won the silver with a jump of 6-7½. Viktoriya Styopina of Ukraine won the bronze with a jump at the same height, but finished below Cloete because she had one more miss.

Amy Acuff of the United States was fourth, clearing 6-6¼

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press