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Siranidis and Bimis deliver surprise gold for Greece

The Athens crowd was desperate for homegrown heroes, and they found two in the diving pool, where synchronised divers Nikolaos Siranidis and Thomas Bimis produced one of the upsets and stories of the Games.

The pair had only qualified for the men’s synchronised diving event because, as hosts, Greece received an automatic place. Neither diver had any significant international pedigree: Siranidis had finished 26th and 36th in the individual springboard at the previous two editions of the Games, while Bimis had finished 32nd in Sydney.

Eight pairs competed in the final, with the Greek duo taking the lead after the first dive. Few expected them to keep it for long and, sure enough, the Russian pairing of Dmitry Sautin and Aleksandr Dobroskok took over at the top after the second round of dives. The lead changed hands again after the third round of dives, with individual champion Peng Bo and Wang Kenan of China taking charge, followed by the German pair and the Russians. At this point the Greeks were back in what was still a very creditable fifth place.

It was during the fifth and final round of dives that things started to take an unexpected twist. The Chinese pair, who were leading by 12 clear points, suffered a horrendous setback when Weng lost complete control of his dive, and the judges awarded them zero, which resulted in them plummeting from first place to last.

Then Sautin hit his head on the board, which meant that the Russians were relegated to second last. The American pair, perhaps sensing an unexpected chance of a gold medal, followed suit, making errors that cost them vital points. Suddenly, it seemed like nobody was capable of stepping up to the plate and seizing their opportunity for glory. Nobody, that is, except for the unheralded home divers.

Up stepped Siranidis and Bimis, apparently unconcerned by the sudden rapt attention of the entire host nation. They duly delivered a spectacular and error-free final dive. The crowd went wild and the gold medal was theirs – it was Greece's first medal of the Games.

Their victory was later heralded as the greatest upset in the history of Olympic diving. Siranidis went back to individual competition the following week and, in the springboard competition, finished 28th out of 32 divers. It didn't matter. He was already an Olympic champion.

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