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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S., Russia, China at the Top of the Table

APSergei Garbuzov waving the Russian flag as he and his teammates celebrate their 6-5 victory over Greece for the bronze medal in men's water polo in Athens on Sunday.
ATHENS -- After 16 days of competition and 301 events, the United States finished atop the medal charts for the third straight Summer Olympics, with Russia the overall runner-up and China second in gold medals -- its best showing ever and the leading edge of a surge by Asian teams.

A late comeback saw Russia more than quadruple its gold medal count from a mere six on Tuesday to 27 on Sunday. Russia dipped in golds compared to Sydney, where it won 32, but, despite disappointing performances in swimming and gymnastics, exceeded its overall medal total -- 92 this time compared to 88 in 2000.

President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that Russia's athletes had fulfilled his hopes, Interfax reported.

But the rising stars were undoubtedly the Asian teams.

"These were the games where we saw the awakening of Asia," International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said. "The traditional strong nations that dominate the scene now will have to work extremely hard."

Australian Olympic chief John Coates, whose team finished fourth, said China and Japan "have sent us an ominous warning. They're gearing up for a dominant performance in 2008."

Asia's gains came largely at the expense of Europe. Germany won 48 medals in Athens, nine fewer than in Sydney, while medal hauls also dropped for France, Italy, Poland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands. Greece, despite drug scandals and other setbacks, won 16 medals, its best showing since it hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896.

The Americans won the most medals in swimming and track, and finished just one behind Romania in gymnastics. U.S. Olympic Committee chief executive Jim Scherr, who set his team's medal target, said surpassing it was "an exceptional accomplishment" in light of the stiffening competition from Asia and the former Soviet republics.

Yet the U.S. gold medal total of 35 was the lowest since the Montreal Olympics in 1976.

"It's more and more difficult, as time goes on, for U.S. athletes to gain a spot on the podium," Scherr said.

Australia finished with 49 total medals and 17 golds. Avoiding a traditional falloff, it became the first nation ever to increase its gold medal total four years after hosting the Summer Games; the Aussies won 16 golds in Sydney.

On Sunday, in the first major security breach of the Olympics, the leader of the men's marathon was grabbed by an intruder five kilometers from the finish and knocked off the course.

Vanderlei Lima of Brazil was pushed to the curb into the crowd as police tackled the intruder, dressed in a brightly colored costume. Lima was able to get back into the race, but lost precious time and eventually was overtaken by Stefano Baldini of Italy, who won the race in 2 hours, 10 minutes, 54 seconds.

The intruder was arrested. His name was not immediately available.

Mebrahtom Keflezighi of the United States won the silver medal, with Lima getting the bronze, running into the Panathinaiko Stadium to cheers from the crowd.

Despite dire warnings of hijacked airplanes, dirty bombs and killer kites, this was the first major security problem apart from a man in a pastel-blue tutu doing a swan dive into the pool during the diving.

The marathon -- a 42.2-kilometer course that originated in Greece 26 centuries ago -- was the last event of the Athens Olympics. The race began in the village of Marathon, where doomed runner Pheidippides took off with word of a Greek battle victory against the Persians in the fifth century B.C.

After a scandal-ridden two weeks, there were more doping revelations on Sunday.

Two more medals were taken away when Hungarian hammer throw champion Adrian Annus was stripped of his win for failing to take a follow-up doping test -- the third gold to be returned in Athens. Colombian cyclist Maria Luisa Calle Williams also lost her bronze in the points race after testing positive for a stimulant, taking the total number of athletes stripped of their medals to seven.

With Annus' medal annulled, Japan's Koji Murofushi will get the gold for hammer throw, Ivan Tikhon of Belarus moves up to silver, and Turkey's Esref Apak gets the bronze. With Williams losing her points medal, American Erin Mirabella moves up to take the bronze.

And the dispute over the men's individual all-around gymnastics gold medal, which was won by American Paul Hamm, continued. South Korean bronze medalist Yang Tae-young appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to correct a mistake in the results that deprived him of victory.

Drugs aside, the Olympics has surprised its critics.

Rogge praised Athens organizers for defying the skeptics.

"I'm an extremely happy president of the IOC," he said. "We always expressed our confidence in our Greek friends. I've always said I believed there was enough time to finish the preparations in due time. I think our friends have delivered in Athens in a very splendid way."

Rogge said the security -- before Sunday's marathon incident -- had been "flawless." He also noted that ticket sales of 3.55 million had topped the figures from Seoul and Barcelona, international sports federations praised the venues as "outstanding," and global broadcasters reported that TV ratings were up more than 15 percent from Sydney four years ago.

(AP, MT)