The weightlifter trained by lifting, at arm's length, paint tins filled with cement. The boxer, whose three months of training were interrupted when he spent a month hiding in the bush from rampaging pro-Indonesian militia, gave away eight years and nine inches of reach to his opponent in his first and last bout.

They came from a bruised and battered island to the north, a nation so new that it is not yet recognised by the IOC, and they competed as individuals - their uniforms adorned not with national colours but with the Olympic rings.

Neither stood a chance but, as the boxer had put it when he arrived in Sydney, "representing East Timor is a victory in itself."


And in the first two days of competition at the games, these two defeated athletes showed what it is to be real Olympic heroes.

Martinho De Araujo, lifting in the 56kg class where the tiny-tot strong men grunt and strain, lifted 10kg less in total than the winner held aloft in the clean and jerk.

He was at the bottom of the table.

But as the gold medallist, Turkey's Halil Mutlu, sent the local Turks into a frenzy, much of the crowd's favour was reserved for the man who had the honour of attempting the first lift of the Olympics.

De Araujo provided the crowd with one of the night's moments of high drama. Weightlifting convention requires that the smallest totals are attempted first and his 65kg snatch attempt was, by the standards of his class, minuscule.

After endearing himself to the crowd by failing to lift it, he gave himself a workout backstage with a set of weights that looked like they'd been fetched from the dump. Meantime, on stage, the 60-second clock ticked for his second attempt and as he ascended to lift it he seemed unaware. The crowd bellowed at him to "hurry up." He assumed they were urging him to greater strength. His lift, when it came, was easily accomplished but the buzzer had sounded.

In the end, De Araujo completed his competition even if his total of 157.5kg was more than 50kg less than that of the man ahead of him. But he was ecstatic.

"I've gone through quite a bit but I'm happy to be here and lift not only the weights but lift for my country as well," he said.

The "quite a bit" was not enlarged upon. Reliable reports circulating here suggest that in the upheaval in Dili he had a gun held to his head. But he wasn't commenting on that. Among the many restraints on his competing in Sydney is the undertaking not to talk about anything which might be construed as political.

By last night, two of the four East Timorese were history (two will run in the marathon on the last day).

Victor Ramos crossed himself before ascending into the ring for his round one bout in the 60kg boxing, but Goliath won this David and Goliath struggle.

His opponent, Raymond Narh of Ghana, t rained punches virtually at will. The referee stopped the bout only seconds into the second round.

Afterwards he was looking satisfied too, if a little gloomy.

"I was sad that I didn't fight the four rounds," he said through an interpreter.

But were you proud, too, to be here for East Timor? I wondered.

His answer was wordy but the translator sought advice from Ramos' American assistant, Frank Fowlie, before declining to translate it.

"I think," said Fowlie at last, "he's going to feel very proud when he gets off the airplane in Dili wearing the Olympic jacket."