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Erki Erki Erki!

Thursday, September 28, 2000, Dianne and I were sitting in the stands at Stadium Australia watching the second morning of the decathlon. Come the discus throw, and there was one guy who slammed both of his first two throws straight into the cage. His third throw was judged to be legal only after a protest. He went on to win the gold medal. My hero of Sydney 2000 is back for Athens 2004. Estonia's first-ever male gold medallist, he is the one and only Erki Nool.

To be fair, Nool is not a favourite for the decathlon this time around. He is not currently ranked in the world's top 50 decathletes by the IAAF. But we'll be cheering for him, come August 23 and 24.

I'll be keeping an eye on the female athletes of the two Islamic countries Liberated By The Forces Of Good in the past three years, namely Afghanistan and Iraq. Robina Muqimyar is competing in the 100 metres (Aug 20-21), while Friba Razayee is competing in judo. One of Muqimyar's opponents in the quest for Marion Jones' vacant crown will be Iraq's only female athlete at Athens, Alaa Jassim.

Timor-Leste is competing for the first time, after some of the athletes took part in Sydney as independent invitees of the IOC. Agueda Amaral will be running the women's marathon on August 22. According to the official Athens 2004 website, her interests are "cooking and cricket". Martinho Ferreira de Araujo is in the men's weightlifting.

Kiribati, a collection of around 33 atolls in the North Pacific, is a nation in danger of disappearing because of global warming. Their olympic committee was admitted to the IOC just last year. The Athens 2004 website lists one competitor, Meameaa Thomas in the weightlifting.

Palestine: Unlike Sydney 2000, this time Palestine will be sending some home-grown athletes, despite the obvious hardships. Sanna Abubkheet is her country's first female olympian and is running in the 800 metres. The story of swimmer Raad Aweisat is an inspiring one.

Finally, I'll be watching out for Sunette Viljoen of South Africa. She played seventeen one-day internationals and one Test for the South African women's cricket team before taking concentrating full-time on the javelin throw. I hope this has no connection with the five wickets she took for her country.

Next: Roundup of days minus two and minus one.

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