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Day 9 Part 2: Timor Leste, Great Moments in Choking and the War on Error

Back in the days when the Olympic Spirit meant something, there was an adage that talked about it being more important to take part than to win. (Or, if you're Michael Phelps, it's more important to win than to take part.) The Olympic Spirit is alive and well in Timor Leste.

Agueda de Fatima Amaral has never broken the three hour barrier in the women's marathon. She didn't do so Sunday either - she clocked 3:18:52 - but she was there representing a country that had such a traumatic road to independence. Amaral was the 65th runner to finish, the only athlete behind her being Mongolia's Luvsanlkhundeg Otgonbayar who took half an hour more.

Among the sixteen not to finish was Great Britain's world record holder Paula Radcliffe. Six kilometres to go, and in fourth place, she broke down in tears. She doesn't really know why. See the BBC's report which, for now, includes video of an exclusive TV interview given on Monday. Read the Seattle Times' Ron Judd's report on the women's marathon.

There are questions begging to be asked here: the marathon was being run at 6pm on a Sunday in 35 degree heat. Why was it not run first thing in the morning like they used to? Bugger television! (6pm in Athens is 11am in New York.)

The most bizarre choke of the day, however, came in the final of the women's eights. Sally Robbins in the Australian crew suddenly slumped forward in her seat about 400 metres from the finish and her boat finished last. It wasn't immediately clear why. Sydney's Daily Telegraph splashed the headline "How Oarful" over its front page the next day and there have been a lot of recriminations flying about. I'll try and wrap together the best of the coverage of this amazing incident in a separate item tomorrow.

War on Error Update: Hungarian fencing referee Joszef Hidasi has been kicked out of the Olympics and suspended for two years after making six scoring errors in the men's team foil final on Saturday. All six errors favoured Italy, who beat China 45-42 in the gold medal playoff.

Sunday was New Zealand's big day at the Games (so far), with their first two gold medals of Athens 2004. The Evers-Swindell twins, Georgina and Caroline, won the women's double sculls, and Sarah Ulmer won the women's individual pursuit (incidentally ending Leontien Ziljaard-van Moorsel's dream of outdoing Fanny Blankers-Koen). And this opened up the sore point of New Zealand's flag being almost indistinguishable from the Australian. The New Zealand Green Party was quick to call for a referendum to change the flag.

The US regained dignity on the track on Sunday night after Yuliya Nesterenko of Belarus won a Marion Jones-less women's 100 final on Saturday. Justin Gatlin of the University of Tennessee won the men's 100 crown with a time of 9.85 seconds.

The Hockeyroos are out of medal contention after a 1-0 loss to the Netherlands, and probably facing the break-up of a champion team. Still on hockey, read Mervyn Fernandis' latest Dribble Scribble.

Finally, Jana.