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Sanchez goes for cleansweep

Felix Sanchez can end a four year wait on Thursday by winning the 400m hurdles title and complete a cleansweep of championships.
PTI | By Pirate Irwin (AFP), Athens
PUBLISHED ON AUG 25, 2004 06:43 PM IST

Felix Sanchez can end a four year wait here on Thursday by winning the Olympic 400 metres hurdles title and complete a cleansweep of championships.

Elsewhwere Dwight Phillips bids to add the Olympic crown to his world championship gold in the long jump, Kelly Holmes goes in the 1500m semi-finals as she tries to do the 800m/1500m double and the Czech Republic's Jan Zelezny starts out on trying to win a fourth successive javelin title.

The 26-year-old Sanchez, who opted to run for the Dominican Republic the birthplace of his parents rather than the United States where he was born, has worn a flashing wristband for the past four years since being handed it to wear at the 2000 Olympics.

He swore to wear it till he stood on the top podium and so obsessed is he with that fixation when he lost the original one he had another ordered and couriered to him.

Unbeaten in 42 straight hurdles races the wannabe baseball player, who switched to athletics after he broke an arm, goes into the race a warm favourite.

While Sanchez acknowledges that in a more competitive era than when Edwin Moses ran he will get beaten eventually he believes he is in the type of form that he was in Paris last year when he won the world title.

"I'm going to give a great show in the final. I just hope that I can bring home (Dominican Republic) that gold medal and if I do I will have a party for three days," said Sanchez, who sports a tattoo of Superman on his left shoulder.

There are dangers to him not least from American champion James Carter, who was full of confidence after winning his semi-final.

"I will win," said the 26-year-old, who was fourth in the 2000 final.

"It doesn't matter what I have left. I have 48 hours to recover. That's plenty of time for me to get back and run another personal best."

Should Phillips win the long jump, where his main opposition will be Jamaica's 1996 silver medallist James Beckford and perhaps Ghana's Ignisious Gaisah, it will be a small miracle given he almost had a leg amputated when he was 14 years old after being hit by a motorbike.

However now having sailed through qualifying he hasn't just got his sights fixed on the title but Mike Powell's world record of 8.95 metres set in 1991.

"I can't wait for a chance to go after the world record," said the 26-year-old.

Holmes looked to have suffered no ill effects from her glorious win in the 800m when she came second in her 1500m heat, and completing the double in a weak field looks to be a distinct possibility.

For Zelezny it is likely to be his last Olympics.

While he would obviously like to bow out on a high note it is even more of a priority for his perennial rival Britain's Steve Backley, who retires after the Games, and to whom an Olympic title would be a fitting farewell.

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