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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bubka Pulls Out Without Making One Vault


ATLANTA -- Sergei Bubka came into the 1996 Olympics as a heavy favorite to win the pole vault. But the man considered the greatest ever in his sport also came in with a bum ankle, which is why the 35-year-old from the Ukraine ultimately pulled out of the competition without making a jump.

After suffering an injury in April, Bubka reinjured his right foot while training July 12, a week before he arrived here.

"When I tried to make any pole vaulting attempt in either competition or training, I was in great pain," Bubka said after Wednesday's disappointment. "So I took injections to kill the inflammation and it felt better. I then did some very simple training and the pain started in a new place."

It left the field for Thursday's final wide open, with Americans Lawrence Johnson, Jeff Hartwig and Scott Huffman in the hunt. Both Hartwig and Johnson jumped 18 feet, 8-3/4 inches, while Huffman jumped four inches less.

This marked the second straight Olympics where Bubka met frustration. In Barcelona, Bubka set the bar at 18 feet, 8-1/2 inches. He failed to clear the height on his first attempt, knocked the bar off as he cleared it on his second, then failed to even try his third as he waited for the wind to die after changing poles and had the clock run out on him. Now comes the injury.

"It is like a bad dream," he said.

The Games were hit with new drama Wednesday when an Iraqi weightlifter who carried his national flag in the opening ceremony defected and asked for political asylum in the United States.

Iraqi opposition officials said Raed Ahmed, 29, dashed out of the athletes' village when team officials weren't looking and was driven off by an accomplice from the Iraqi National Congress.

"He was running, sweating, and was very afraid and nervous," said Omar Muhamed, a Georgia Tech student and member of the opposition group who helped arrange the defection.

Ahmed, a weightlifter, finished 23rd in the 99-kilo class last Sunday.

On the track, Gail Devers, aiming to be the first woman to win Olympic golds in the 100-meter dash and high hurdles for almost 50 years, failed to win any medal at all in the final after getting off to a desperately slow start in the high hurdles in Wednesday's final.

Lyudmila Enquist, a Russian who now represents Sweden, nosed out Slovenia's Brigita Bukovec for the gold.

The Olympics have also been bad news for Linford Christie, although for American Michael Johnson the Games so far appear to be a perfect fit.

Christie was disqualified from the men's 100-meter dash final last week for two false starts. On Wednesday, he failed to qualify for the men's 200-meter final by one-hundredth of a second.

Johnson, already the 400-meter Olympic champion, dominated his 200-meter heat to such an extent he was jogging in first place at the finish line, underlining his favored status to clinch the unprecedented 200-400 double.

At the diving pool, China's Fu Mingxia kept alive her chance to sweep the women's events by qualifying third for the three-meter springboard final. The 17-year-old successfully defended her gold on the platform Saturday.

America's freestyle wrestlers, inspired by the memory of murdered teammate Dave Schultz, fought their way to two Olympic golds.

Heavyweight Kurt Angle beat Iran's Abbas Jadidi in the biggest -- and most emotional -- fight of the day. The two had a point each after eight minutes of tense grappling and with the Iranian already raising his hands in victory the judges chose Angle as the winner.

While the 27-year-old from Pittsburgh wrapped himself in the Stars and Stripes and began a tearful victory lap, former world champion Jadidi pleaded unsuccessfully with the judges for a change of mind. Angle continued to cry for at least half an hour and was still weeping freely as he received his gold medal. The Iranian stared up at him darkly from the next step down on the podium.

Keith Cross won for the U.S. in the 51-kilo category. ()