Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva staked her claim for pole vault gold in Athens by breaking the world record in Birmingham last week. She jumped 4.89m, bettering Svetlana Feofanova’s old best mark by two centimetres. She improved on her record shortly afterwards in London, scaling a height of 4m.90cm.
Tennis world No1 Roger Federer has already won gold in the love stakes. Athens will also represent the fourth anniversary of his meeting girlfriend, Miroslava Vavrinec, in Sydney 2000, and he intends to celebrate with a medal.
Steve Backley, 35, has confirmed that the Olympics will bring down the curtain on his exceptional career. Backley won the javelin bronze at the Barcelona Games in 1992, silver in Atlanta four years later, and looked to be on track for that elusive gold in Sydney last time around, with an Olympic record throw of 89.85m, only to be denied again when Jan Zelezny threw even further.
The Ocean International at Croydon’s Fairfield Hall, which has 150,000 euros in prize money, offered a rare opportunity to see the world’s top table tennis players in action before the Olympics. 23-year-old German Timo Boll, favourite for gold in Athens is threatening Chinese domination of the sport. Other contenders on show were Belarus’ former world No.1 Vladimir Samsomov, South Korea’s Kim Taek Soo and Croatia’s Zoran Primorac.
After 29 consecutive victories, Danish triple jumper Christian Olsson was finally beaten by Romanian rising star Marian Oprea at a meeting in Stockholm last week.The number 29 also proved to be the stumbling block for 1,500m champion Hicham el Guerrouj, who has not lost since the 2000 Sydney Games. The record unbeaten run is still held by 400m hurdler Edwin Moses, who triumphed in 122 back to back races between 1977 and 1987!
In all 13kgs of gold, one ton of silver and one ton of bronze have been used to mint 3,100 Olympic and 3,300 Paralympic medals, to be distributed in Athens this August. ‘Medals’ are also available for the general public. An official Olympic commemorative coin, with a 10 euro face value, has been released by the Portuguese mint, and is already in circulation.