With top athletes competing in several events, Germany had high hopes of capturing a gold medal on the first day at Athens, but it had to settle for a single bronze instead.
Franziska van Almsick wasn't the only one upset with her performance
Two of Germany's household names -- cyclist Jan Ullrich and swimmer Franziska van Almsick -- finished empty-handed after their events on the first full day of competition at the Olympic Games in Athens. Germany's only medal on Day One went to Julia Matijass, who captured the bronze in the women's judo (lightweight) competition.
Perhaps the highest hopes for gold were riding on the shoulders of Germany's women's swim team competing in the 4x100 meter freestyle relay. The quartet consisting of Antje Buschschulte, Petra Dallmann, Daniela Götz and Franziska van Almsick instead finished in fourth place behind Australia, the United States, and the Netherlands.
"It's sad when you just miss the bronze," said van Almsick. "I'm not happy with my race, I didn't really get going."
There weren't many of these for Germany after day one
The missed opportunity called up memories of a similarly rough start for the women swimmers at Sydney four years ago, which seemed to drag the whole team down. On Sunday, world champion Hannah Stockbauer -- the favorite for gold in the 400 meter freestyle race -- will be doing her utmost to make sure history doesn't repeat itself.
Ullrich far behind
Cycling star Jan Ullrich was wishing history would repeat itself on Saturday, but he was disappointed. The 30-year-old won gold in the road race in Sydney in 2000. This time around, he was never really a factor in the race, placing 19th. It was Italy's Paolo Bettini who took home the gold -- Italy's first in the road race since Fabio Casartelli won at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Germany's Erik Zabel missed the bronze by four seconds, and placed fourth.
"The best man won," said Zabel. "Bettini has been among the best all season, he deserved this victory."
First medal for Germany
There weren't many of these for Germany after the first day
In contrast, the winner of Germany's first medal at the Athens Games -- Julia Matijass -- was overjoyed with her bronze medal performance in the women's 48-kg judo event. The Russian-born Matijass emigrated to Germany in 1995, and became a citizen in 1999. In 2000, she competed for her new homeland for the first time. Her bronze medal is a dream come true.
"All the torture has finally paid off," said Matijass. "I've put a difficult period behind me. I couldn't speak a word of German, I had no friends, my family stayed behind in Russia. Now, I'm just so happy."
The 30-year-old used her special technique -- an inner thigh throw -- to overcome her opponent, Maria Karagiannopoulou of Greece. Matijass' trainer, Norbert Littkopf, encouraged her to forget a past series of defeats, and concentrate on taking a medal.
"Julia is incredibly accurate, hard-working, and ambitious," Littkopf said. "She's a great fighter with excellent technique."