Pictures of Greatness These champions from around the world are back for another shot at gold. Enjoy them now--most will retire after the Athens Games

August 01, 2004

Dozens of past gold medalists will compete in Athens, and each
has earned a place in the Olympic pantheon. French photographer
Gerard Rancinan chose six for a series of portraits that pay
tribute to not only the athletes but also to two members of his
profession's pantheon: Etienne-Jules Marey of France and Eadweard
James Muybridge of England, who in the late 19th century became
the first to photograph movement. (Muybridge used several cameras
triggered by a trip wire; Marey used a camera that recorded
multiple images on one photographic plate.) Rancinan created
backdrops using lines and ghosted silhouettes inspired by the
work of Marey and Muybridge. The resulting images resemble period
photographs that Baron de Coubertin might have gazed at while
sitting at his inaugural 1896 Games. --Virginie Luc

Pyrros Dimas GREECE He grew up in Chimara, Albania, but emigrated
to Greece in 1991 and became a national hero. The 187-pound Lion
of Chimara has won three gold medals, and in Athens he will try
to become the first weightlifter to win four. So popular is
Dimas, 32, that the Greeks built a stadium in his honor;
fittingly, it sits in the shadow of Mount Olympus.

Haile Gebrselassie ETHIOPIA As a boy he ran six miles to school
each day with books under his left arm, and he still races with
that elbow distinctively bent. Now 31, Gebrselassie
[geb-ruh-suh-LAH-see] has set more than 15 world records, won two
10,000-meter golds and been the subject of a Disney documentary,
Endurance. After Athens he'll likely become a marathoner.

Laura Flessel-Colovic FRANCE Holding an epee, she is la
Guepe--the Wasp, quick-stinging and pitiless--and a 1996 gold
medalist. Without it, the 32-year-old from the island of
Guadeloupe is a chic French celebrity, married to a French
journalist. A three-month suspension in 2002 for using a banned
glucose supplement (because of a pharmacy mix-up, she says) has
fueled her drive for another gold.

Jan Zelezny CZECH REPUBLIC He is the most accomplished javelin
thrower ever (three straight golds after a silver in 1988), and
his strong arm earned him a pitching tryout with the Atlanta
Braves in 1996. (His throwing technique didn't translate to
baseball.) Small for his event at 5'11" and 160 pounds, the
38-year-old has held the world record for the last 11 years.

Svetlana Khorkina RUSSIA At 5'5" and 25 she seems too tall and
too ancient to be an elite gymnast, but she is the reigning world
all-around champion. "My body is getting old, and my soul is
getting young," says Khorkina, a two-time gold medalist from
Belgorod known for her long-limbed grace, innovative moves and
love of the spotlight. (She once posed nude for Playboy and has
talked of becoming an actress.) Asked how she would like to be
remembered in her sport, she replies in direct fashion, "As the
unique Svetlana Khorkina."

Alexander Popov
RUSSIA He is 32, a dozen years removed from the first of his four
gold medals, and he still races in a skimpy Speedo instead of a
bodysuit. He is long recovered from the 1996 street stabbing in
Moscow that nearly took his life and is old enough to have become
an IOC member and lived in Australia for more than a decade. Yet
the Russian Rocket still lives up to his nickname: He won the
50-meter freestyle at the 2003 worlds and at May's European
championships. Popov is eager to return to the city where, at a
meet 13 years ago, he launched a seven-year unbeaten streak in
sprints. "I started my career in Athens in 1991," he says, "and
it will be a complete circle to finish it there."

SIX COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY GERARD RANCINAN

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)