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World Sport

Big bag of surprises at Athens

By Tracey Holmes for CNN

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Tainted gold? Hamm got close to the gymnastic judges but still managed to win the overall title in controversial circumstances.
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(CNN) -- If it is surprise you were after, Athens 2004 is delivering them by the bucket load.

For a start, it's a surprise the Games were ready to go when the light turned green just over a week ago.

Then came the surprise elimination of Greece's top two sprinters without a race even being run.

Defending 200m Olympic champion Kostas Kenteris and Sydney 100m silver medallist Katerina Thanou went AWOL before the drug testers could find them.

They then withdrew from the Games despite claiming they were innocent and hadn't really meant to bypass the testers on up to three occasions leading up to the Opening Ceremony.

In some surprisingly good news for the Greeks, divers Nikolaos Siranidis and Thomas Bimis watched in disbelief as the leading Chinese pair in the 3 meter synchronized springboard blew away their certain gold medal.

While standing perfectly still on the edge of the board one of the Chinese divers just, well, fell. Instead of the perfect synchronicity we've come to expect from the Chinese, we saw flashes of zeros from the judging panel.

Not to be outdone, a male member of the audience, dressed in a tutu, jumped the gate, climbed the diving board and leapt into the pool to win his bet as well as earn himself a five-month jail sentence.

So much for $1.5 billion worth of NATO security.

And the gold medal went to the Greeks.

Gymnast floored

While American women traditionally do well in gymnastics, the competition hasn't always been as rosy for American men.

Until Paul Hamm that is.

The current world champion became the first American ever to win the men's overall Olympic title even after crashing into the judges' table with a bad landing off the vault.

He recovered brilliantly with a near perfect floor routine to snatch the gold from South Korea's Kim Dae-eun with bronze going to another South Korean, Young Yang-tae.

But it's not over yet.

The South Korean team plans to take the case to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport because the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has admitted an error in scoring.

Young had one-tenth of a point deducted for the degree of difficulty in his floor routine.

It was incorrectly judged out of 9.9 rather than the full 10 points -- and that was the difference between bronze and gold.

Three judges have been suspended, including the panel chairman who happens to be from the United States, but FIG says the results cannot be changed.

We'll see what the courts have to say about that.

Japan serves it up

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Noguchi celebrates her victory in the marathon. By Sunday Japan had amassed an impressive 13 gold medals.

Onto the medal tally.

China and the United States are involved in the usual struggle for the top spot, but where are the Russians?

Well, their medal tally is decreasing after Irina Korzhanenko had to hand back the gold she won in the women's shot put after testing positive for a banned steroid.

This was supposed to be her big comeback after missing the Sydney Olympics while serving a two-year drug suspension.

Making up the top three on the medals table is Japan. Have you looked at Japan on a map? A couple of tiny little islands but filled with athletes who do not know how to give up.

They have swimmers like Kosuke Kitajima who in winning the breaststroke double helped the team to eight medals in the pool alone.

In judo they've won eight of the 14 gold on offer and they had three women finish in the top seven of the grueling marathon including gold medallist Mizuki Noguchi.

Thailand is having its best ever Olympics with four medals so far -- two gold and two bronze all to women weightlifters.

Hong Kong has won its second medal ever with silver in the men's doubles table tennis (their only other medal was gold in Atlanta for the women's sailboarding).

And while we are on the Asian theme, China has surpassed its prediction of 20 gold medals with the Games only halfway through.

If you add to its tally the number of medals won by former Chinese nationals, or by athletes now coached by Chinese experts, you realize that the mark the Chinese are making is the latest world sporting phenomenon.

The Chinese returned to the Olympic arena in Los Angeles 1984, and in the six Games since have claimed over 100 gold medals.

If you want more surprises tune in for Beijing 2008. It will truly be the China Games.


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