Phelps, Chinese gymnasts dominate Olympics

Aug. 12, 2008, 12:50 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) China's male gymnasts have something in common with Michael Phelps: they're as dominant in their sport as the American is in the pool.

While Phelps won his third gold medal Tuesday in the 200-meter freestyle, putting him nearly halfway to his quest of eight to break Mark Spitz's record from 1972, the Chinese gymnasts finished off what they started in qualifying Saturday.

They easily won the gold medal in the finals of the team event, more than seven points ahead of 2004 champion Japan. The United States took the bronze.

Phelps has nine Olympic golds, tying him with four others for the most in Olympic history. The Chinese gymnastics team is equally impressive internationally: winning three straight world titles and seven of the last eight, 10 individual world titles and now, after a collapse at Athens, a second Olympic team gold.

"We had been through a lot over the last eight years," team member Li Ziaopeng said. "We put so much effort into this competition."

Chinese divers look set to match their gymnastic compatriots' exploits, winning their third gold in three events and with a sweep of all eight looking possible. Wang Xin and Chen Ruolin scored 363.54 points to finish nearly 30 points ahead of the competition in the women's synchro 10-meter platform.

Racing out of lane six at the Water Cube, Phelps surged to the lead and led by a full body length halfway through the second of four laps and was ahead of the world record pace for nearly the whole race. He was nearly two seconds ahead of second-place Park Tae-hwan when he touched in 1 minute, 42.96 seconds, breaking the mark of 1:43.86 he set at last year's world championships.

"I just wanted to be out at the 50-meter point and that's where I was," Phelps said. "I was in open water and it was difficult for the other guys to see me."

The American will go for his fourth and fifth medals, and 10th and 11th overall, on Wednesday in the 200 butterfly and the 4x200 freestyle relay. He was the fastest qualifier Tuesday in the butterfly, in which he holds the world record.

Elsewhere in the pool, the Americans won two other golds. Aaron Peirsol won the 100 backstroke, defending his title with a world-record time. Natalie Coughlin won the 100 backstroke, becoming the first woman to ever defend her title in the event, while Leisel Jones of Australia took the 100 breaststroke.

Later Tuesday, cancer-stricken Eric Shanteau of the United States made his Olympic debut, easily advancing out of the 200 breaststroke preliminaries just a couple weeks before he will undergo surgery.

Carrying the hopes of cancer survivors he's heard from since going public with his diagnosis last month, Shanteau smoothly stroked his way through the four-lap race and qualified seventh in 2:10.29.

"This was the longest day of my life," he said. "That's why I'm glad finals are in the morning because you wake up, you race and you're not sitting around thinking about it all day."

Pak Hyon Suk won North Korea's first gold medal of the Olympics with total lifts of 241 kilograms (531.3 pounds) in the women's 63-kg division of weightlifting.

"I am overjoyed by the fact that I have brought joy to our dear general," a stone-faced Pak said through a translator, referring to North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il.

Liao Hui of China won the other weightlifting gold Tuesday, in the men's 69-kilogram class.

Alexander Grimm of Germany won the single kayak slalom, using a pair of clean, fast runs to take the top spot on the podium.

Cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd, Benjamin Boukpeti of Togo took the bronze medal in the race, his country's first medal ever in the Summer Olympics.

He hugged and kissed his French mother and Togolese father, saying: "They showed me it was possible."

Germany had a good day in the equestrian events, taking gold medals in both team and individual eventing.

Hinrich Romeike scored 54.2 penalty points on Marius to edge Gina Miles of the U.S. into second place. The team gold came down to the last rider for each team, which were separated by only one dropped jump rail.

In judo, Ayumi Tanimoto of Japan won the women's 63-kg gold and Ole Bischof of Germany took the men's 81-kg division. Fencer Zhong Man of China defeated Nicolas Lopez of France 15-9 for the men's saber gold.

Rafael Nadal defeated Lleyton Hewitt 6-1, 6-2 in tennis. Nadal, seeking his first Olympic medal, is seeded second but is assured of overtaking No. 1 Roger Federer in the rankings next week.

No. 3 Novak Djokovic beat Rainer Schuettler 6-4, 6-2.

Sisters Serena and Venus Williams advanced to the third round. Serena defeated Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-2, 6-0 in 44 minutes and Venus beat Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-4.

Top-ranked Jelena Jankovic beat Alona Bondarenko 7-5, 6-1. Jankovic supplanted Ana Ivanovic at the top of the rankings Monday. Sixth-seeded Dinara Safina of Russia won her 12th match in a row, beating Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain 7-6 (3), 6-1.

In mens' basketball group matches, the U.S. beat Angola 97-76, while Argentina overpowered Australia, 85-68.