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BEIJING - Alex Averbukh, Israel's most decorated and experienced athlete, yesterday strove to become the country's first Olympian to make three consecutive finals, but in the end he couldn't deliver the goods. In fact, he wasn't even close.

Everything was hard for the pole vaulter from the get-go. He started out at 5.45-meters and failed in his first two attempts. He cleared that height on his third and final chance, allaying fears he would go home without a single successful jump. He then went straight for 5.65-meters, which would have been sufficient for making the finals. However, he failed in all three attempts and finished tied for 28th place.

Averbukh quickly recovered from the letdown and departed with a somersault on the mattress below the pole in the Bird's Nest stadium. Later, he said an injury to his achilles' tendon bothered him and announced he would be lying low for a while. "I'm not retiring," he said, "but in the coming year I intend to better enjoy the competitions." He said he would attend the world championships, "but without a lot of pressure."

He added that after next year, he would turn to coaching. "I'll be a fitness trainer," the European champion said.

Kolganov looks ahead to 500m race

After the not-so-impressive showing of Itai Magidi in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and Niki Palli's exit from the high-jump preliminaries, the only remaining Israeli athlete in Beijing is Haile Satayin, who runs the marathon Sunday.

Michael Kolganov, as expected, failed yesterday to make the final of the 1,000-meter kayak competition. He placed eighth in his semifinal heat with a time of 3:43.11, ranking him 17th overall. Today he faces his main test, the semifinal of the 500-meter kayaking, the category in which he took bronze in Sydney.

The top three in each of three heats will advance to the final. His main opponents will be Hungarian veteran Akos Vereckei, who finished fourth in Athens and is a former world champion; Denmark's Kasper Bleibach, a young and rising star, who won the European championship this year; and the 1,000-meter Olympic champion, Eirik Veraas Larsen of Norway, who is not as strong in the shorter race.