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Two more gold medals for Russians


ATHENS, Greece -- Mavlet Batirov of Russia took the gold medal in the Olympic freestyle wrestling 55kg weight division after thrashing Stephen Abas of the United States 9-1 on points in a one-sided bout.

Batirov took an early lead and never looked back, countering Abas' stealthy moves with powerful attacks which left the American struggling to break free.

The Russian, who received the majority of support from a crowd made up mainly of Greek fans and a small Iranian contingent, celebrated calmly in his corner with his coaches while Abas walked off disappointedly.

There was no joy for Greece in the bronze medal bout which was won convincingly by Chikara Tanabe of Japan who beat local hope Amiran Karntanov 7-0 on points.

Gymnastics gold for Russia

Russia underlined their superiority in rhythmic gymnastics by winning the group gold medal with an alluring synchronized performance at the Olympics on Saturday.

The defending champions easily outclassed their challengers with their two dramatic routines to earn 51.100, an impressive 1.65 points ahead of second-placed Italy.

"The Russian team is very pleased to win gold again as it has repaid all the sacrifices the girls have made," said Russian coach Valentina Ivanitskaya.

Performing to the theme tune from the "Matrix," the Russian quintet stormed into an early lead with 25.300 points with their twirling ribbon display.

The crowd erupted after Italy's second routine but their chants of "Italia Italia" failed to sway the judges and the team ended up taking the silver with 49.450.

A theatrical routine to the strains of "Bolero" helped Bulgaria to edge out Belarus for the bronze.

Greece, initially awarded sixth place by the judges, were moved up to fifth after a videotape of their ribbons performance was reviewed by officials.

Taekwondo gold for China

World taekwondo champion Luo Wei of China won the Olympic gold medal in the women's under 67kg class, beating Greece's Elisavert Mystakidou.

Luo won the final by a score of 8-6.

Roared on by a passionate home crowd, Mystakidou led 4-3 going into the final round but she could not fend off the champion's late onslaught.

South Korea's Hwang Kyung-sun put in a stirring middle round, scoring four unanswered points, to outclass Guatemala's Heidy Juarez 5-2 to win bronze.

Sailing gold for Austria

Austria's Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher retained their Olympic Tornado title in style on Saturday, winning the final race in their two-man catamaran.

The pair, who have crewed together since 1997 in the fastest of the Olympic sailing classes, held a slender advantage going into the last of 11 races but blitzed their key rivals with a faultless performance on the last day of the regatta.

Americans John Lovell and Charlie Ogeltree, seventh in Sydney, took silver and bronze went to Argentina's Santiago Lange and Carlos Espinola.

The Austrians, such was their dominance, had wrapped up gold with two races to spare in Sydney four years ago but were made to work harder for victory in Athens.

"Some people in Austria said it was a bit boring (to watch us win easily) in Sydney," Hagara joked.

"So we tried for another version this time...it is more interesting to watch close racing." Emphasizing his point, he added: "This victory means more to us."

Mountain bike gold for France

The French cycling team salvaged some pride from an otherwise dismal Olympics when Julien Absalon won gold in the mountain bike cross country race.

Absalon, from Raon aux Bois in north-east France, grabbed a French tricolour from a fan as he rode to the line at the end of the mountain bike cross country race and pointed to the heavens while waving it aloft.

"That was for my father who died in January 2001," he explained. "He was my main fan and my major supporter. It's thanks to him that I'm here today and it's from him that I have got my strength -- the strength to do this."

Spain's Jose Antonio Hermida, who turned 26 on Tuesday, gave himself a silver medal as a late birthday present, finishing exactly one minute behind.

The extrovert Catalan dropped his bike after crossing the line and fell spreadeagled on his back before getting up and running over to embrace Absalon.

Dutchman Bart Brentjens held off a spirited late attack from Belgium's Roul Paulissen to take bronze, eight years after he won the inaugural Olympic mountain bike title in Atlanta.


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