Olympic roundup: US swimmers, gymnasts thrive
BEIJING (AP) No drama from Michael Phelps this time. Just another gold medal, another world record and another rung up the chart of Olympic greatness.
Phelps won the 200-meter freestyle in 1:42.96, the fastest time ever by nearly a full second, giving him three golds and three world records thus far in Beijing. This also was his ninth career gold medal, tying Mark Spitz, Carl Lewis and two others for the biggest stash of Olympic gold.
And he's still got five races to go.
The way Phelps looked Tuesday morning, Spitz's other claim to fame - his record of seven gold at one Olympics - is in trouble.
Phelps led by a full body length after the first half lap. He was so far ahead for so long that it seemed as if he'd been given a head start. And, remember, the seven guys trailing him are among the best swimmers in the world. That included American Peter Vanderkaay, who won bronze.
"The Star-Spangled Banner" became an oft-heard tune at the Water Cube early on Day 4, as Natalie Coughlin and Aaron Peirsol won the next two medal races. Coughlin became the first woman to successfully defend her title in the 100 backstroke, then Peirsol won the men's version in a world record. Margaret Hoelzer got bronze in Coughlin's race and Matt Grevers was right behind Peirsol for silver. The next race, the women's 100 breaststroke, was the first not won by an American - but Rebecca Soni was close, getting the silver.
Just like that, in about 30 minutes, the U.S. medal gold-medal count doubled from three to six, and the overall count jumped from 12 to 19.
It grew to 20 with a pleasant surprise: A bronze from the men's gymnastics team, a group always overshadowed by the women and counted out by many after twins Paul and Morgan Hamm withdrew with injuries.
The gold was no surprise, going to the hosts from China. They have a whopping 10 gold, which is more amazing when you consider:
-Of the other 204 delegations, the U.S. and South Korea are the only ones to have won as many medals of any color as China has won of the very best shade.
-China has four golds in weightlifting alone, more than the total for any delegation outside the U.S. and South Korea.
-China has 10 different gold winners, so it's not as if the pile has been padded by one standout, like Phelps.
Phelps and Coughlin didn't have long to savor their success. Both were back in the pool within an hour trying to qualify for another final.
Both made it, Phelps with the fastest time in the 200 butterfly and Coughlin in the 200 medley.
More qualifying was to come Tuesday, including Eric Shanteau in the 200 breaststroke only a few months after being diagnosed with testicular cancer. He's postponed treatment to compete in Beijing.
Serena Williams advanced to the third round, needing only 44 minutes to dispatch Australia's Samantha Stosur 6-2, 6-0. Williams lost just five points in the second set and dropped only six points on her serve in the entire match.
Americans Mike and Bob Bryan won their first-round match in doubles, defeating Mark Knowles and Devin Mullings of the Bahamas 6-2, 6-1. The Bryan brothers are seeded No. 1.
Monday was like the opening round of a major: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and the Williams sister all advanced.
Nadal won his Olympic singles debut, beating Italy's Potito Starace 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, and Federer beat Russia's Dmitry Tursunov 6-4, 6-2, then received congratulations from one of the spectators - LeBron James.
Venus Williams, playing her first match since winning Wimbledon, beat Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky 6-3, 6-2 and showed no sign of the knee injury that sidelined her in recent weeks.
Serena Williams finished out her weather-suspended match against Belarus' Olga Govortsova.
Her sister, seeded fourth, won all four games when her match resumed after an overnight rain interruption, and she beat Olga Govortsova of Belarus, 6-3, 6-1.
Third-seeded Novak Djokovic beat Robby Ginepri of the United States 6-4, 6-4. American Sam Querrey lost to Igor Andreev of Russia 6-4, 6-4, leaving James Blake as the only man to make the second round for the U.S. team in singles.
Nicolas Massu of Chile opened his bid to repeat as Olympic champion by beating Steve Darcis of Belgium 6-4, 7-5. Massu won the gold at Athens in both singles and doubles.
No. 5 David Ferrer and No. 6 Andy Murray were eliminated.
Reigning champs Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor went to 2-0 with a 21-15, 21-16 victory over a Cuban team.
After two of three qualifying rounds, Glenn Eller and Jeff Holguin were in good shape to advance to the afternoon finals of men's double trap.
In 50-meter pistol, both American entries failed to advance. South Korea's Jin Jong-oh won the gold medal and North Korea's Kim Jong Su got silver.
American Spencer Mango won his opening match in the 55 kg class of Greco-Roman, defeating Romania's Virgil Munteanu, 1-1, 5-2.
In the tournament opener, Canada beat Taiwan 6-1.
Don't mess with Chinese weightlifters. Chen Yanqing broke two Olympic records en route to her second straight gold medal in the women's 58-kilogram category, making the host country 3-for-3 thus far.
"In 2004, I won the gold medal for myself. Today, I won it for all my supporters and fans," the 29-year-old said, revealing that she almost quit the sport three times.
Later in the day, Zhang Xiangxiang won the men's 62-kilogram division, upping China to 4-for-4.
After the medal ceremony, Zhang got down on his knees and bowed to the ecstatic home crowd. It was his second Olympic medal, after winning bronze in Sydney in another division.
"I've been waiting for this gold medal for eight years," Zhang said. "This time on the stage has been a perfect ending to my career."
Like Phelps, the Chinese divers are aiming for eight. And, like Phelps, they already have two.
Lin Yue and Huo Liang won the men's 10-meter synchronized title, while the American tandem of David Boudia and Thomas Finchum slipped from third after four rounds to a fifth-place finish.
A day after the U.S. men routed China, the women won by an even more lopsided score.
Tina Thompson powered a 23-0 run in the first quarter that sent the Americans well on their way to a 108-63 victory. By the time Kobe Bryant and the rest of the men's team settled into their seats at the end of the first quarter the U.S. was up 33-11.
"We were really locked in and focused," U.S. co-captain Katie Smith said. "We didn't want to let them stick around. We wanted to let the crowd know that we were ready to play. You don't want to play around with teams, if you have a chance to make a statement and put them away early you do that."
The U.S. seemed focused to play the host country after losing to them in the gold medal game of the Good Luck Beijing tournament in April. However, that U.S. team only had four players from the current Olympic team on it.
China figured to be the toughest test for the Americans in their pool. Up next will be a matchup with Mali (0-2), which lost Hamchetou Maiga of the Houston Comets to an ankle injury in the third quarter of a 81-47 loss to the Czechs.
In other games, Russia edged South Korea 77-72; Belarus topped Latvia 80-57; and Spain defeated New Zealand 85-62.
The U.S. women's team lost to Cuba in three sets. The good news: Barbara Bachman, the mother of 2004 Olympian Elisabeth Bachman McCutcheon and the mother-in-law of U.S. men's coach Hugh McCutcheon, has had her condition upgraded to stable after being stabbed by the attacker who also killed her husband and then himself.
U.S. setter Lindsey Berg said she wasn't sure if the tragedy played into Monday's loss, but said "it has been an emotionally draining 48 hours."
"We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of assistance and generosity that we have received and hope to convey our appreciation to everyone who has supported us and kept us in their thoughts and prayers," the McCutcheons wrote in an open letter.
A fluke of a draw produced a rematch of last year's featherweight world championship finals. Speed and savvy produced a different outcome, with Ukraine's Vasyl Lomachenko beating Albert Selimov of Russia 14-7.
American Raynell Williams easily won his opener 9-1 over Italy's Alessio di Savino, improving the U.S. team to 3-1 before lightweight Sadam Ali's evening bout.
Alexey Tishchenko, Russia's gold-medal featherweight in Athens, opened his attempt to add a lightweight gold to his collection with a 10-2 win over Tunisia's Saifeddine Nejmaoui.
Corey Cogdell, a 21-year-old Alaskan, won a four-way shoot-off for bronze in women's trap shooting. Finland's Satu Makela-Nummela hit an Olympic-record 21 targets to take the gold.
Cogdell was the youngest shooter in the finals. She finished 50th at last year's world championships. What foes didn't realize is that she's honed her aim by having grown up hunting for dinner as a kid in rugged wilderness.
"There are similarities between shooting in the wild and at competitions," she said. "Dove hunting definitely helps here because the target presentations are similar."
The American women's eight crew is headed to the finals after winning its heat. The men's eight was second in its heat, dropping it into a second-chance race Tuesday in hopes of making the final; three guys are back from the crew that won the first U.S. gold medal in 40 years in that event at Athens.
In whitewater slalom singles, 19-year-old Benn Fraker finished 10th and advanced to the semifinals, but 29-year-old Scott Parsons missed a gate at the end of a strong run and was 20th in the single kayak and is done. Parsons was America's best hope for a whitewater medal in the K-1, or one-man kayak class, which has historically been dominated by Europeans.
The U.S. women's team, with 10 first-time Olympians, overcame a shaky start to beat host China 12-11 in preliminary play.
"I can guarantee it won't be like that the rest of the tournament," Natalie Golda said.
In other preliminary action, Hungary beat the Netherlands 11-9, defending gold medalist Italy defeated reigning European champion Russia 9-8 and 2000 gold medalist Australia knocked off Greece 8-6.
In the Finn class, American newcomer Zach Railey and British veteran Ben Ainslie were locked in a tight race.
"Two more days of racing and hopefully the medal race, if everything goes well. I feel fine with the position I'm in," Railey said.
In windsurfing, Athens silver medalist Yin Jian of China set the pace in her quest for the host country's first-ever Olympic sailing gold by dominating both opening races.
Two days before the tournament begins, the Americans won a tuneup game against China 7-3. Nate Schierholtz homered and doubled after the team received an on-field and dugout visit from President Bush, who stayed for about two innings. Fans and media weren't allowed in until after Bush left.
Italy's Maria Valentina Vezzali won the women's foil for her third straight Olympic gold in the event. Then came a terrific celebration that featured tears, getting carried off the podium by her coach and then riding off on his shoulders.
She took the lead on a touch with 4 seconds left and held off South Korean Nam Hyun-hee 6-5. After the emotional victory, Vezzali fell to the floor and broke down.
Defending Olympic champions Yang Wei and Zhang Jiewen of China lost to an unseeded Japanese duo in women's doubles. The winners, Miyuki Maeda and Satoko Suetsuna, bowed deeply in the center of the court as though they were praying.
American Raju Rai was ousted in singles. Defending champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia also was ousted.
Italy's Giulia Quintavalle won the women's 57-kilogram division, and Azerbaijan's Elnur Mammadli stunned world champion Wang Ki-chun of South Korea to take the men's 73-kilogram title.
India's Abhinav Bindra won the 10-meter air rifle after entering the final in third place. China's Zhu Qinan was second, giving the Chinese three medals in the shooting competition.
Americans Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs beat Germans Stephanie Pohl and Okka Rau 21-17, 21-16.
Italy and South Korea were tied going into the final three arrows. Going first, the Italians could've made the South Koreans sweat. Instead, on their final shot, 20-year-old Mauro Nespoli landed well wide of the center of the target - a seven. The South Koreans capitalized, winning with an Olympic-record score of 227. The South Korean women also won the team title.
China took bronze for its first ever men's archery medal.
Germany was in first place and Australia close behind after two of the three phases of equestrian eventing on a rainy cross-country course and dressage ring.