Hicham El Guerrouj, Kelly Holmes, Liu Xiang, Yelena Isinbayeva. Their achievements were the bright spot of an Olympics which aid been clouded by
doping scandals even before the competition began.
Greek sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou could not be found at the Olympic Village for an Aug. 12 doping test. Hours later, they said they
were involved in a motorcycle accident as they were rushing back to the village to be tested.
They spent four days in the hospital and later withdrew from the Olympics, while the International Olympic Committee placed them under investigation
for a possible doping violation.
Greek authorities have launched an investigation into the traffic accident, as well as the business activities of their coach, Christos Tsekos, who
maintained a food supplements company in Athens. The governing body of athletics is also investigating whether Kenteris and Thanou repeatedly tried to
avoid drug testing.
Kenteris wasn't at the games, but the night of the men's 200-meter final, in which he was the defending champion, thousands of spectators at the
Olympic Stadium chanted his name.
The curse of the sport even ruined its return to the birthplace of the Olympics.
Russian shot putter Irina Korzhanenko tested positive for steroids after she won the gold in Ancient Olympia and was stripped of her medal.
She wasn't the only one to lose a medal. Hungary's Robert Fazekas lost his gold medal in discus for allegedly tampering with a doping test, and
countryman Adrian Annus - the Hungarian hammer throw champion - was stripped of his gold medal Sunday for failing to take a follow-up drug test, the
IOC said. He passed the first test after the event.
Three other athletes were thrown of the games for doping.
But there were outstanding achievements to light up the Olympic Stadium.
El Guerrouj became the first man in 80 years to win the 1,500 and the 5,000 races at the same Olympics. The only other man to do it was Finnish great
Paavo Nurmi in 1924.
Arguably the greatest middle distance runner in history, El Guerrouj had come back from the 1996 and 2000 games without the gold medal everyone
expected him to win, the one in the 1,500.
Finally, in Athens, where he won the first of his four world titles, El Guerrouj captured that elusive gold. Then, bursting with confidence, the
Moroccan beat Ethiopia's new star, Kenenisa Bekele, the 10,000 champion, in a thrilling 5,000 finish to match Nurmi's feat.
Holmes finally broke through after years of injuries and near-misses and became only the third woman in Olympic history to complete the
middle-distance double in the 800 and 1,500.
These Olympics had been expected to confirm long-distance star Paula Radcliffe as Britain's track heroine. Like Holmes, she ran in two events - the
marathon and 10,000 meters. But Radcliffe failed to finish either, winding up in tears.
Marion Jones also finished empty-handed in Athens. The American track star won five medals in Sydney, but this time she only competed in the 4x100
relay and long jump after failing to qualify for the sprints.
Liu Xiang equaled Colin Jackson's 11-year-old world record of 12.91 seconds to win the gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles and become the first
Chinese man to become an Olympic champion.
Liu's time was also an Olympic record and he provided a hint of what Chinese athletes might do in four years when the games come to Beijing.
Isinbayeva broke the only world record during the games, clearing 4.91 meters in the pole vault. No world record were set at the 2000 Sydney Games.