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Beach volleyball: Tearful Cook bows out of fifth Games
LONDON (Reuters) - Five-times Olympian Natalie Cook of Australia, who won gold in Sydney in 2000, was beaten for the third time on Wednesday as her record-breaking beach volleyball career ended in elimination from the London Games.
Cook and Tamsin Hinchley were beaten 21-16 18-21 15-11 to Czechs Marketa Slukova and Kristyna Kolocova in Pool C.
The 37-year-old Cook is the first Australian female to compete in five Olympics. She is also the first beach volleyball player to take part in all five Games since the sport made its debut in Atlanta in 1996 where she won bronze with Kerri Pottharst.
The veteran was in tears after leaving a packed stadium at Horse Guards Parade which is set against a stunning backdrop of the capital skyline with Big Ben and the London Eye lighting up the night sky.
Asked how she was feeling, Cook choked up with emotion and could not speak for several seconds.
"I'm proud, I'm sad, I'm disappointed, I'm excited I've left everything out there. I couldn't perform any better," she told reporters, her voice cracking.
"It's disappointing that it's not enough and I'd love to be playing further in the tournament but you've got opposition out there trying to stop you and ... I don't have any words for it right now."
Cook and Hinchley lost all three of their pool matches but they had a better tournament than results suggested.
In their first game they faced twice Olympic champions Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor of the United States, the most successful pair in the history of the sport, and lost in two tight, hard-fought sets.
They then faced Austrian sisters Doris and Stefanie Schwaiger and wasted several match points in the second set before being beaten in another close-fought three-setter.
"They were all so close and it showed our commitment, it showed our guts, that we fight to the end and unfortunately the score doesn't reflect what we would like it to," said Cook.
Wednesday's clash with the young Czechs was another tough contest.
Cook was as combative as ever on court and was clearly enjoying herself especially when she scored spectacular points that had the crowd on their feet.
After one particularly good rally, she raised her arms in triumph and grinned broadly.
"You just know that if you lose it's over so you might as well lose having a good time," added Cook with a smile.
Commentating for Australian television was Pottharst, the player she won gold with on Bondi Beach in 2000.
"It's a sad way to finish ... but Natalie's proud and we're all proud of her for making her fifth Olympics which I can't see anyone else equalling," said Pottharst.
Cook said she would return to Horse Guards Parade, which she described as the best Olympic venue, to cheer for May-Treanor and Walsh who are the only pair to have won gold twice.
"For them to have done what they've done, at the top of their game ... it's like the days of Roger Federer, the days of Tiger Woods, when they were just unbeatable," said Cook.
"Every time I watch them I'm in awe so I'll be back to support them. Everyone is trying to see if they can do three in a row. I think they can, they have the mental, physical stability to do that. They're amazing."
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)
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