Athens: 

The heroes, the fools and the damage

The Heroes

Glorious China

China managed just five gold medals in 1988 at Seoul, but in Athens they recorded 63 medals – including 32 gold medals.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge predicted Asian nations would continue their strong emergence in Beijing in 2008.

"In these Games, we saw the awakening of Asia," said Rogge.

"We saw the major progress of China, the extraordinary success of Japan (fifth), of Korea (ninth), Thailand (25 th ) and Indonesia (45 th )."

By comparison Canada managed just 12 medals (three gold, six silver and three bronze) in Athens, the lowest total since winning 10 at Seoul.

Canada had 34 athletes or crews ranked in the top five in the world in 2003, but only nine won medals. None of the four defending world champions made it to the podium.

There’s no catching Hicham

Hicham el Guerrouj has broken several world records and won many world championships and he was favoured to win the 1,500 metres in Atlanta and Sydney, but all he had to show for it was one silver medal.

He left Athens with two gold medals after holding off Kenyan rival Bernard Lagat to win the 1,500 metres and Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia to win the 5,000 metres.

The wins proved Guerrouj is not only one of the most talented runners of all time, but he is also kind of person that refuses to give up on a dream.

Courageous Brazilian

Vanderlei de Lima of Brazil was a symbol of courage and determination when he finished the marathon in Athens despite being attacked by a former Irish priest attempting to make a political point.

Defrocked priest Cornelius Horan, the same man who disrupted the British Grand Prix in July 2003 by running onto the track, grabbed Lima and pulled him into the crowd not far from the finish.

De Lima came back onto the course but quickly lost his lead to Stephano Baldini of Italy, who ran into Panathinaikon Stadium and crossed the finish line at two hours, 10 minutes and 55 seconds to win the gold medal.

"I was scared, because I didn’t know what could happen to me, whether he was armed with a knife, a revolver or something and whether he was going to kill me," said Lima after the race. "That’s what cost me the gold medal."

Fischer just keeps going

Birgit Fischer, who is a 42-year-old mother of two, won gold in the flatwater K-4 500 and silver in the flatwater K-2 500.

Fischer started her collection of eight kayaking gold medals and four silver at the 1980 Olympics. She might have had won more had she not missed the 1984 Games because of East Germany's boycott.

The Fools

Dopey weightlifters

World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound, who is a Canadian, said that 22 athletes had been caught cheating – 11 more than at the 2000 Sydney Games.

The statistic, he said, indicated that WADA and the IOC was winning its battle against doping.

Weightlifters accounted for half the athletes caught cheating.

Worried the IOC would consider removing weightlifting from the Olympic roster, the International Weightlifting Federation vowed to step up its own fight against cheating.

As a first step, the organization will ban all weightlifters caught for drug offences in Athens from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The Damaged

Need we say more?

Perdita Felicien – bad trip that, but Felicien could also be in the magnificent column because of the way she maintained her integrity after the race.

Home town chaos

Kostadinos Kenteris, the men's 200-metre champion in the Sydney Games, testified for nearly seven hours in front of Athens prosecutors last week in connection with the doping affair that led to his controversial departure from the Olympics.

A few hours after IOC officials failed to find Kenteris and training partner Ekaterini Thanou, an Olympic silver medalist in the women's 100 metres in Sydney, the two athletes claimed to have been involved in a motorbike accident, which legal sources said they could have faked to avoid the test.

Prosecutors are also investigating the nutritional supplement businesses of the sprinters’ controversial coach Christos Tzekos.

Three U.S. prosecutors, who worked on the Balco doping scandal, a laboratory suspected to have distributed doping products, have forwarded information to their Greek counterparts.

Steve Podborski’s wrap: (Podborski covered many of the cycling events for NBC)

The Good: "The organization: it was fun, it was nice, it was engaging, all the things people thought might not ever happen, happened."

The Bad: "The price they’re going to have to pay to achieve what they did because they started so late with their organization."

The Ugly: "All the cheaters; the people who dope."

The Lesson: "The big lesson for us, and I think it’s going to be one of our great strengths, is making sure we’re prepared early."

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