posted on Aug, 14 2004 @ 01:17 PM
ATHENS, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Ian Thorpe successfully defended his 400 metres freestyle gold medal at the Athens Olympics on Saturday with a narrow
victory over fellow Australian Grant Hackett.
Thorpe, who had relegated Hackett to the silver in his speciality at three world championships in succession, had a real battle to keep his title in a
three-way tussle which also featured bronze medal winner American Klete Keller.
Thorpe, the youngest-ever men's world champion when he won the event in 1998, looked as though he had lost the chance of defending the crown when he
was disqualified for a false start at the Australian trials in March.
The 21-year-old won a reprieve when team mate Craig Stevens stepped aside to enable his friend to compete instead of him.
Thorpe, the man in the big black bodysuit, led at the first turn but Hackett was in front at 100 metres and Keller took his turn at 150 before Thorpe
took charge again at 200 metres, halfway into the race.
Thorpe, invincible in the event for seven years and Olympic champion in 2000, just held off Hackett's challenge to win in three minutes 43.10 seconds,
well outside his world record 3:40.08.
Hackett took yet another silver in 3:43.36 and Keller his second successive Olympic bronze in the event in an American record 3:44.11. Massimiliano
Rosolino, silver medallist behind Thorpe in Sydney, was fifth.