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The South African men's 4x100 freestyle swim team was smokin', both in and out of the water. Anchored by Ryk Neethling, the South Africans set a world record in winning the gold medal in the race that ended Michael Phelps' quest to win eight gold medals. Phelps and the Americans finished eighth.

After their stunning win, the South Africans hugged and flexed for the crowd. It looked like an A&F photo shoot. We were happy for Neethling (Brent Mullins photo left/click for larger view), whom we interviewed in June at a meet in Long Beach, Ca. He has model looks and a stunning body but he was very down to earth and unaffected as he talked about the upcoming Olympics. He was also featured in a Vanity Fair photo spread that romantically linked him to American Amanda Beard, but Beard said in Long Beach that she "ruled out boys for the summer."

In some ways, you can say that Arizona, not South Africa, won the gold. Ryk Neethling, Roland Schoeman and Lyndon Ferns have all swam for the University of Arizona and train together. The fourth member is Darian Townsend. Neethling has his own website and comes across as American as Phelps.

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By Jim Buzinski


This is a sentence I thought I’d never write: The Olympic event I’m most looking forward to is the men’s water polo competition.

Covering the FINA Men’s World League finals in Long Beach, Calif., in July exposed me to a sport I had only passing interest in before. In my first taste of elite-level water polo, I was amazed at the skill and athleticism of these athletes. As someone who can barely tread water, watching these guys from six countries swim, pass, shoot and play defense was impressive. Under the water, there was more contact, pulling, grabbing and pushing than under the basket at an NBA game or a circuit party; these guys really go after each other, which is why they all wear double Speedos.

They were also amazing out of the pool. Each team had its own warm-up robes, which put any terry-cloth bathrobes to shame. The Hungarians wore bright red, the Greeks in white and the Serbs in red, white and blue. But the classiest were, of course, the Italians. With their impeccably designed royal blue robes, open to expose well-developed bronze chests, the Italians looked like they’d be equally at home strolling down the catwalk in Milan.

Most impressive in the pool in Long Beach was Hungary, and with good reason. The Hungarians are the New York Yankees of the water polo world, winners of seven Olympic golds and the favorite in Athens. As one USA water polo rep told me, Hungarians come out of the womb with their arm cocked back, ready to shoot. Even my untrained eye could tell they were the class of the event, and it was no surprise when they beat Serbia and Montenegro to win the world final and the $100,000 prize. And it was cool afterwards to see the winning players hugging and kissing each other. I know it's a European thing and not gay, but it's always nice to see men comfortable enough to show affection to each other.

The Olympics featured 12 men’s teams and eight women’s. The U.S. men are among the Top in the world, but will struggle to win a medal. The American women, though, are a gold medal favorite, with their biggest competition coming from Hungary and Russia. With NBC spreading its coverage over several networks, water polo should get a lot of exposure.

Covering one tournament automatically makes me an expert, so here are my men’s picks: Gold—Hungary; Silver—Greece; Bronze—Serbia and Montenegro.

I hope these terrific images by Brent Mullins give you a sense of the action that makes the sport so compelling to watch. Enjoy!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Athens marathon attacker sentenced

Monday, August 30, 2004 Posted: 1118 GMT (1918 HKT)

Athens marathon attacker sentenced

ATHENS, Greece -- A former Catholic priest has been given a one-year suspended sentence in Greece after pushing the leader of the men's marathon into the crowd during the Athens Olympics.

Vanderlei De Lima, from Brazil, was at the head of the race Sunday, just three miles from the finish, when he was attacked by Cornelius Horan, who was wearing a kilt and beret.

After a scuffle, De Lima managed to get away, but he was clearly upset and finished third.

Horan, 57, originally from Kerry, Ireland, had a note pinned to his back, reading: "The Grand Prix Priest. Israel Fulfillment of Prophecy Says The Bible."

"Greece has a long tradition with Saint Paul and Alexander the Great," he told police officers after his arrest. "Christ deserves a greater honor. I am not a Jew but I love them."

Horan also disrupted Britain's Silverstone Formula One Grand Prix last year by dashing across the track. He was sentenced to two months for aggravated trespass then.

After his arrest Sunday, police issued a press release saying the man had "strong psychological disturbances" and was taken to the General Police Division of Attica where he spent the night in a cell.

On Monday, a three-member court found him guilty of violating Greek laws on extracurricular sports and fined him &euro3,000 (U.S.$3,605), according to The Associated Press.

The court told Horan he would have to serve the sentence if he violated any laws in Greece for the next three years.

Athens Police confirmed that Horan went to Athens only for the Olympic marathon as he arrived from London, where he lives, earlier on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Brazil's Olympic Committee said it will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over the assault.

The Brazilians protested immediately after the event, asking for De Lima to be given a duplicate gold medal, but it was turned down.

The International Olympic Committee gave De Lima a special medal named after the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre De Coubertin, in recognition of his "exceptional demonstration of fair play and Olympic values."

Despite this, the Brazilians have now decided to take the case to sport's highest legal body.

They want the result reviewed on the basis that De Lima was not given the necessary security on the streets of Athens and this stopped him winning.

Earlier in the Athens Games, Canadian Ron Bensinhom, caused a stir by splashing into the Olympic pool during the men's 10m diving final.

Copyright 2004 CNN. All rights reserved.

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