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Olympic Roundup: Wednesday, August 20th

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Olympic Roundup: Wednesday, August 20th

By Associated Press

BEIJING - Move over, Michael. Make way for Usain. The Beijing Olympics will no longer be remembered only for what Michael Phelps did in the pool. Usain Bolt made sure of it on the track Wednesday night. Already the champion at 100 meters, Bolt whizzed through the 200, too, making him the first winner of both Olympic sprints since Carl Lewis in 1984. Yet Bolt one-upped Lewis, Jesse Owens and the other guys who've pulled off the 100-200 double. The long, lanky, joyous Jamaican also set a world record in both races, and that's never been done at an Olympics. "I blew my mind," said Bolt, "and I blew the world's mind." So now it's time for a new debate, sports fans. Which is more impressive: Phelps' eight gold medals and seven world records or Bolt leaving no doubt that he's the fastest man in the world, the fastest man ever? Bolt's victory made memorable a day that was supposed to be a bit of a lull before the big finish this weekend. Only 11 medals were decided, fewest since the first day of competition. There was other notable news, though, like the U.S. softball and men's basketball teams getting tested before moving closer to playing for gold. There also was the first-ever medal of any color at any Olympics for Afghanistan (a bronze in men's taekwondo), the debut of BMX cycling and another doping case, this one involving a medal winner. The first-ever BMX medal, however, will be postponed a day as heavy rain Thursday morning forced a number of changes to the schedule. Olga Kaniskina of Russia flashed a huge smile as she won the women's 20K race walk, a marked contrast to the competitors in the men's javelin who struggled in slippery conditions. Later, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh won their second consecutive gold medal in beach volleyball, playing through a steady and sometimes driving rain to beat China in straight sets and extend their winning streak to 108 matches in a row. "The rain makes it better," Walsh shouted afterward, unable to contain the California girl enthusiasm that earned her the nickname "Six Feet of Sunshine." "We felt like warriors out there. The pressure of playing China made it pretty intense." The International Olympic Committee said it is investigating Ukraine's Lyudmila Blonska. If found guilty of a doping offense, the 30-year-old Blonska would lose her silver medal in heptathlon and be expelled from the games. Another piece of news is that these Summer Games are on pace to be the most-watched in history, a figure skewed by how many of China's 1.3 billion residents were tuned in. Then again, Phelps -- and now Bolt -- are making for must-see TV. The United States still leads the medal count, up only 82-79 over China. The hosts bumped their gold count to 45, with a first-ever sailing victory joining the list. China already has won more golds than the United States won when it hosted the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and has tied the number won by the Soviet Union in 1992. The Soviets won 55 in 1988, which is now within range for the Chinese, especially with 86 more golds to be decided through Sunday. Track and field Bolt needed only 19.30 seconds to go from start to finish and he made sure not to waste any time showboating. Pushing with all he had in his favorite event, Bolt broke Michael Johnson's mark that had stood since Atlanta by a mere 0.02, but his margin of victory -- 0.66 -- was the biggest ever in the Olympic 200. Bolt is the ninth man to sweep the 100-200. But Bolt is likely more excited about being the first man to own the 100 and 200 world records since fellow Jamaican Donald Currie did it in the 1970s. One more number of note: 22, Bolt's age as of Thursday. During his victory lap, a version of "Happy Birthday" played over the loudspeakers inside the Bird's Nest as Bolt took off his gold shoes and wrapped the Jamaican flag around his shoulders like a scarf. While most eyes were on Bolt, judges saw that the second- and third-place finishers -- including American Wallace Spearmon -- went outside their lanes. They were disqualified, bumping Americans Shawn Crawford and Walter Dix up to silver and bronze. Also at the Bird's Nest on Wednesday: -- The Jamaican flag also waved proudly for Melaine Walker, who won the women's 400-meter hurdles. American Sheena Tosta got silver. -- Aksana Miankova of Belarus set an Olympic record in winning the women's hammer throw. -- Bernard Lagat advanced to the 5,000-meter final, moving on the Saturday night's medal race. -- Three Jamaicans and three Americans were among those advancing to the women's 200 finals, which will be Thursday night. Men's basketball This is what goes down as a "tough test" for the U.S. squad of NBA All-Stars: A five-point lead in the second quarter that turned to 12 by halftime ... and was never close again. "Sooner or later we'll impose our will," U.S. point guard Chris Paul said. "I don't know if you can keep up with us for 40 minutes." Australia sure couldn't. After a tight game into the fourth quarter on Aug. 5, the Aussies hung with the American until the middle of the second quarter but that was it. Kobe Bryant scored nine points during a 14-0 surge to open the second half and the only question after that was how much they would win by. It wound up being 31 points, 116-85. Next up will be Manu Ginobili and defending champion Argentina on Friday night, with a spot in the gold-medal game going to the winner. The Argentines beat Greece 80-78, with the Greeks missing a potential winning 3-pointer in the final few seconds. The Americans sure seem locked in toward their first gold medal in a major international competition since the 2000 Sydney Games. China's run before its adoring home fans ended with a 72-59 loss to Lithuania. "I'm really happy, but also a little sad about our result," said Yao, who battled back from an NBA season-ending foot injury in the spring to be ready for the Beijing Games. "We were determined to fight, but were limited by our capabilities." Lithuania advances to play Spain in the semifinals Friday night. The Spaniards advanced with a 72-59 victory over Croatia, led by 20 points from Pau Gasol. Softball The U.S. came as close to defeat as they have in a long time. Not that it mattered in the end. The Americans were in a scoreless tie with Japan after seven innings, then scored four runs in the ninth -- three on a looooong homer by Crystl Bustos -- for a 4-1 victory and a spot in the gold-medal game. Again, their opponent will be Japan in what will be the last Olympic softball game until at least 2016. The Japanese beat Australia 4-3 in 12 innings later to advance, leaving the Aussies with the bronze. Baseball The guys went to extra innings against Japan, too, and also pulled out a win. Brian Barden singled in the go-ahead run to break a scoreless tie in the 11th inning on the way to a 4-2 victory. The Americans earned the third seed in Friday's medal round, with the Japanese getting fourth. The U.S. will play defending champion Cuba, while Japan will take on South Korea. the only undefeated team. Diving Now comes the tough part for China: The 10-meter platform, the one event the Chinese didn't win at the two previous Olympics. They're off to a good start this time, with teenagers Chen Ruolin and Wang Xin leading the women's standings in preliminaries. China already has six gold medals in diving and is looking for two more to make it a clean sweep. Attempting to avoid a second straight shutout in the diving medals for the United States, Laura Wilkinson was fifth after completing the second-best dive of the opening round. She won this event in Sydney and the Americans have not won a medal in diving since. Cycling Remember the spark snowboard cross put into the Winter Games in Turin? Maybe bicycle motorcross -- BMX, to those in the know -- will do the same. American racers Mike Day and Kyle Bennett gave the crowd a great introduction to the sport, with Day winning the time trial and each of his three quarterfinal heats and Bennett advancing but also dislocating his left shoulder in a wreck on his final heat. Top-ranked racer Donny Robinson also moved on, as did Jill Kintner, the lone American in the 16-racer women's field, who is competing despite a shredded knee ligament. "You can't get much more rad than this," Robinson said. Wrestling Ben Askren has to be thinking, "I cut my hair for this?" The bushy-haired former NCAA champion who promised a gold medal lost in freestyle's 74-kilogram round of 16, ending his Olympics after two matches. The gold ended up around the same neck it has been placed at the last two Olympics -- Buvaysa Saytiev of Russia. The three straight golds in the sport ties a record. "I lost -- I don't know what to say, my dreams are crushed," said Askren, who cut the hair he'd been growing for two years because he feared having it pulled. Doug Schwab, a former NCAA champion, lost in the 66-kg qualifications but made the bronze-medal bracket when the guy who beat him advanced. Schwab ended up losing again. Turkey's Ramazan Sahin won the bracket. Also, the Court of Arbitration for Sport will investigate the Greco-Roman bout that so incensed Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian that he dropped his bronze medal in disgust and eventually had it stripped by the International Olympic Committee. Taekwondo Mexico's Guillermo Perez has a gold medal. And Afghanistan now has a medal, period. Perez won the men's under 58-kg division, beating Yulis Gabriel Mercedes of the Dominican Republic. A bronze went to Rohullah Nikpai, marking the first ever medal -- in any sport -- for Afghanistan. In the women's under 49-kg class, reigning world champion Wu Jingyu of China took the gold. Men's volleyball The U.S. men beat Serbia, remaining undefeated and earning a spot in the semifinals against Russia. Brazil plays Italy in the other semifinal match on Friday. Men's water polo The U.S. squad knows who it will be playing in the semifinals: Serbia. The other semi will pit reigning European champs Montenegro against two-time defending Olympic gold medalist Hungary. Serbia beat Spain to advance. Montenegro moved on by upsetting Croatia, which came in as the world's No. 1 team. Kayak American Rami Zur failed to qualify for the finals of the men's 1,000-meter single kayak (K-1). China added three boats to the finals, with the 1,000-meter canoe double team, the 1,000 K-2 and the 1,000 K-4 all qualifying. Men's beach volleyball The stunning loss in the tournament opener seems like ancient history for Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers, especially now that the Americans are playing for the gold medal. The guys needed only 41 minutes to eliminate Georgia in straight sets in the semifinals, then watched Brazil's No. 2 team beat its best, the Athens gold medalists. Boxing British middleweight James Degale beat former Olympic champion Bakhtiyar Artayev of Kazakhstan to clinch Britain's third boxing medal in Beijing, while Vijender Kumar clinched the first boxing medal in India's history. Cuba's last two fighters also reached the semifinals with one-sided victories, guaranteeing a whopping eight medals for the sport's now-unquestioned power. Flyweight Andris Laffita earned a marquee meeting with Russia's Georgy Balakshin, while middleweight Emilio Correa emulated his medal-winning father with a win over Uzbekistan's Elshod Rasulov. Italy's Vincenzo Picardi left the arena on his coach's shoulders after beating Tunisia's Walid Cherif to clinch a medal. Italy already clinched medals for its two heaviest fighters, world champions Roberto Cammarelle and Clemente Russo, but rarely does well in the lighter classes. Women's field hockey The U.S. had a chance to finish seventh. It didn't happen. At least it took two extra periods before Spain beat the Americans. The tournament was a total loss, though, as the ladies beat New Zealand and had draws with world No. 2 Argentina, Japan and Britain. The team's other loss was to defending Olympic champion Germany. "I think with more experience on these top levels, as we continue to play against the best teams in the world on a consistent basis, that's what's really going to continue to develop this team and this program," U.S. captain Kate Barber said. Sailing China found another sport to pad its gold-medal count, getting its first ever victory in sailing when windsurfer Yin Jian claimed the women's RS:X class. Yin won silver four years ago. "Is it real? Is it real? Did I really win gold?" Yin asked after the finish. New Zealand's Tom Ashley won the men's RS:X. Bronze went to Israel's Shahar Zubari, who has been under intense scrutiny in his homeland because during his national trials he defeated windsurfer Gal Fridman, who won Israel's first-ever Olympic gold in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Open-water swimming Larisa Ilchenko of Russia drafted behind the leading British duo most of the 6.2-mile race, then sprinted to a gold medal in the final 50 meters (yards). The 25-woman race looked a lot like roller derby in water, turning lane-swimming into a contact sport. The pace-setting Brits, Keri-Anne Payne and Cassandra Patten, got silver and bronze. Natalie du Toit of South Africa, who lost her left leg below the knee in a motorcycle accident in 2001, finished 16th. "My message isn't just to disabled people," du Toit said. "It's to everyone out there that you have to work hard. I've been through a lot of ups and downs ... but I've seen a lot of good things along the way. I was able to use the negativism in a good light and say after my accident, 'I can still do it if I work hard."' Synchronized swimming Call them A-2. Or, Anastasia Squared. Or just say that the Russian synchronized swimming duo of Anastasia Davydova and Anastasia Ermakova have repeated as Olympic champions. The pair received all perfect 10s for technical merit on their free routine. "We waited four years for this gold and a whole row of 10s was our crowning achievement," Ermakova said. The Americans were fifth. Table tennis All three members of the Chinese squad advanced easily in women's singles competition, especially Zhang Yining, the defending gold medalist and top-ranked player in the world. Two U.S. players -- Gao Jun and Wang Chen -- also stayed alive. Men's handball Croatia's gold-medal defense reached the semifinals with a victory over Denmark. The Croats will next play the French, who beat Russia. Iceland will play Spain in the other semifinal. Iceland defeated Poland and Spain beat South Korea.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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