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VOULIAGMENI, Greece - At last, Hamish Carter of New Zealand became Lord of the Five Rings.
It was a long journey for an impressionable boy who sat in front of the television set, watching countryman John Walker win the 1,500-meter run at the 1976 Olympics. Thursday morning, though, Carter mounted the top step on the podium here, wiping away the disappointment of a 26th-place finish in the Olympic triathlon in 2000 at Sydney.
He won the men's Olympic triathlon with a strong kick over the last 500 meters of the 10-kilometer run, finishing the three-event endurance race in 1 hour 51 minutes and 0.07 of a second, winning by a margin of 7.87 seconds. The run was preceded by a 1.5-kilometer swim and a 40-kilometer bike race.
Happy as he was with the victory, Carter was even more delighted that countryman Bevan Docherty had finished second.
"Two Kiwis on the podium. How amazing is that?" said Carter, 33. "New Zealand is such a cool country."
A cool nation succeeded on a hot day in this resort area just south of Athens. The two medals doubled New Zealand's medal production to four.
When he crossed the finish line, Carter said, he sort of shut down.
"I couldn't believe what has happened. Since I was watching John Walker win his gold medal, I dreamed of doing the same thing," he said. "I never thought I actually could or would. Today I did and it's hard to absorb."
Sven Riederer of Switzerland finished third, 25.53 seconds behind Carter. Docherty, 27, the reigning world champion, held off Riederer in the 10-kilometer run.
One American finished in the top 10, Hunter Kemper placing ninth in 1:52:46.33. Andy Potts and Victor Plata were 22nd and 27th, respectively.
Jeff Donaldson of Juneau was USA Triathlon's bike mechanic for the Olympics.
Kemper, who had the fastest 10-K split, came undone early in the bicycle portion and could not recover.
"Once you're off the podium, it's kind of a letdown," he said. "When you're not in the game, and that's where you want to be, it's hard to get yourself back in it mentally. The whole bike ride, I felt like I was pretty negative. We were going backwards. I was just kind of surviving the hill."
Potts led after the opening swim and relished the thrill of first place.
"This is the best sporting day of my life, bar none," he said.
He too had a problem, though, in the cycling leg.
"When I jumped on my bike, I don't know what happened, but my (pedal) strap came out of the buckle," Potts said. "So I was basically trying to thread a needle on the bike. It got a little tricky. I don't know if it mattered but it took me a little bit out of my game plan."