Beneath a flawless blue sky with the air scented by pine leaves and the noise of cicadas in the background, the modern Olympics returned to their spiritual home with the men's and women's shot put qualifying competition on Wednesday.
American Kristin Heaston launched the shot 16.41 metres to become the first woman to compete at Olympia in the first athletics meeting in the tree-lined grove since the ancient Games were abolished in A.D. 393
Responding to shouts of "Go Kiwi" from a section of the crowd who started streaming into the arena shortly after sunrise, New Zealand's Valerie Adams was the first to qualify automatically with a mark in excess of 18.50, launching the shot 18.79 metres to finish third in her group.
Belarussian Nadezhda Ostapchuk was the leading qualifier with 19.69 metres, followed by Russian's Olympic champion Irina Korzhanenko who recorded 19.43. Germany's 1996 Atlanta Olympic champion Astrid Kumbernuss, who has been troubled by injury, failed to advance. American men's champion Adam Nelson fouled his first attempt but compensated with his second, hurling the shot well past the required 20.40 metres to record 21.15, the morning's leading mark.
His team mate John Godina, the three-times world champion, also qualified but hopes of an American clean sweep were dashed when Reese Hoffa missed the cut, informs Reuters
News24 told that Janus Robberts stood on sacred ground at the ancient Olympia Stadium and held back the tears.
"I cannot believe this. It's unbelievable that I failed here at this sacred Olympian site," said the big man who was in the kind of shape to challenge for an Olympic medal when the men's shot put event got underway on Wednesday.
Both Robberts and fellow South African Burger Lamprechts suffered disastrous qualifying rounds for the finals at the breathtaking site where the first Olympics were held in 776 BC.
And one could almost sense the ancient phantoms among the athletes and spectators as Robberts warmed up with a 20.19m shot. He then inexplicably tensed up with his first official heave of 19.41m.
"I was in awesome shape. I don't now where it went wrong," said a downcast Robberts, who came to Athens rated fourth in the world after a 21.24m in Prague in June.
Lamprechts, who came to Athens struggling to find form, fell out in similar fashion with an 18.67m first throw followed by an 18.63.
Holding a day of shot put competition at Olympia to link the modern Games in Athens with the shrine to Zeus 300km away was hailed as an inspired echo of the past, says Bloomberg.