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Russia, Georgia medalists embrace despite conflict

Aug. 10, 2008, 8:28 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Their countries may be in a conflict, but a Russian and a Georgian shared a podium and an embrace after winning Olympic medals Sunday.

A day after Georgian athletes considered leaving due to violence back home, Nino Salukvadze took the bronze in the women's 10-meter air pistol. Russia's Natalia Paderina won the silver, and after the medal ceremony, Salukvadze put her arm around Paderina and the two posed together for photographs. Paderina than gave Salukvadze a kiss on the cheek.

"This medal is good for Georgia, especially during times like this," Salukvadze said. "I am very nervous today. It's very difficult for my people."

Georgia launched a major offensive Friday to retake control of the separatist province of South Ossetia. Russia, which has close ties to the province, responded by sending in armed convoys and military combat aircraft. Russia bombed Georgian towns Saturday.

The International Olympic Council announced Sunday that the Georgian and Russian teams had decided to remain in Beijing.

"It's very difficult for us as Georgians because of everything that's going on at home. It was nice that Natalia Paderina came up to me after and gave me a handshake," Salukvadze said. "Yesterday I thought the Georgian Olympic team might withdraw."

Luba Golovina, an 18-year-old Georgian who competes in the gymnastics trampoline event, said there should be no difficulties while competing with the Russians.

"I think it's not a problem with sportsmen. It's politics," Golovina said. "Sports and politics are different."

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INEQUALITIES: Nicole Cooke of Britain won the Olympic cycling road race with two teammates to help her - three is the maximum size of a women's road race team at the Olympic Games. When Samuel Sanchez took the men's title for Spain on Saturday, he was in a team of five.

But that was not the issue bothering Cooke most at the end of the race. She felt there was a much more glaring inequality to be addressed in Olympic cycling - the number of medals available to each sex.

There are 18 gold medals awarded across the four cycling disciplines at the Olympics. While the number on offer on the road and in BMX and mountain biking are equal for both sexes, on the track there are seven medals for men and only three for women. The keirin, the madison and the two team events are not contested by women.

"I think that would be the first thing to address," Cooke said.

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YOU LOOKING AT ME?: Samuel Sanchez turned the tables on the reporters when he turned up for his press conference after taking gold in the men's cycling road race.

As scores of photographers pointed their cameras at the Spaniard, he took out his own camera and snapped a photo of them.

Then he turned round, held the camera out in front of him and photographed himself standing in front of them. With the thumb on his free hand held high and a huge grin on his face.

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DOPING: Indian female weightlifter Monika Devi was cleared of doping charges Sunday, but the reprieve came too late for her to compete in the Beijing Games. And Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou was barred Sunday for her role in a drug-testing scandal at the Athens Games four years ago. That brings the number of athletes unable to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics because of doping cases to 50.

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