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Japan’s Koji Murofushi put his Sydney Olympics nightmare behind him Sunday by capturing the men’s hammer throw silver medal at the Athens Games.

News photoKoji Murofushi prepares to launch the hammer in Athens. Murofushi earned the silver medal
while Hungary’s Adrian Annus picked up the gold.

Murofushi failed to live up to his billing as Asia’s “Iron Man” when he finished ninth in the final four years ago, but he laid those ghosts to rest with a dramatic final throw of 82.91 meters that was his best of the season and just 28 cm short of gold.

World silver medalist Adrian Annus of Hungary took the gold medal with a third-round throw of 83.19. World champion Ivan Tikhon of Belarus threw 79.81 for bronze.

“I gave it everything I had with that final throw and I thought I had made it so I’m a little bit disappointed,” said Murofushi, who became the first Japanese to earn an Olympic medal in an athletics throwing event.

“But despite earning no gold, I’m glad I was able to improve my record (this season). I know what I have to do to go even better so I look forward to the next few years.”

In Sydney, the 10-time national champion fouled on his first attempt before launching efforts of 76.24 and 76.60, neither distance enough to earn another three throws.

Murofushi’s first throw of 79.90 on Sunday was the only one not to clear the 80-meter line other than the fifth attempt, when he made a foul.

Last August, Murofushi competed in the World Championships despite injuring his elbow and finished behind Tikhon and Annus.

Meanwhile, Yuka Murofushi, Koji’s younger sister, failed to make the women’s hammer throw final after finishing 14th in her group on Monday.

She launched a first effort of 65.33 meters, well below the qualifying standard of 68.50, and was unable to improve her distance and finished 27th.

Hamaguchi bounced

ATHENS (Kyodo) Three Japanese women battled their way into the finals of the inaugural women’s freestyle wrestling competition at the Athens Olympics on Monday.

But five-time world champion Kyoko Hamaguchi fell in a surprise 6-4 decision to China’s Wang Xu in the 72-kg semifinals, ruining her chance to claim gold at Ano Liossia Olympic Hall.

At 48 kg, Chiharu Icho got off to a slow start against France’s Angelique Berthenet but settled down to execute a series of rolls and back holds to dominate her opponent in a 12-1 technical fall victory.

Icho will fight Irini Merleni for the gold medal after the Ukrainian beat Patricia Miranda of the United States in the other semifinal.

At 55 kg, Saori Yoshida fell behind 3-1 after Anna Gomis of France reversed her in a tackle and slipped to a 6-3 deficit, but came from behind for a slim 7-6 victory.

Yoshida stretched her winning streak to 73 matches against foreign opponents.

Kaori Icho defeated France’s Lise Legrand on a 4-0 decision, though she struggled throughout the bout to execute any effective rolling techniques.

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