Olympic roundup: China dominates Phelps-less day
BEIJING (AP) Michael Phelps finally had a breather, a day to sit and count his gold medals instead of trying to add to his collection. There was no slowing the Chinese, though.
From getting their first swimming gold in a world-record time to a long-awaited gold in men's gymnastics to golden redemption for a shooter, the hosts continued to amaze. With five more golds Thursday, their Olympic tally is up to 22.
China's winning percentage is ridiculous - more than 1 in every 4 events. If the Chinese can somehow keep it up, they would claim 78 golds - the most by any country in a non-boycotted games since 1904, back when tug-of-war was still on the docket.
The U.S. men's basketball team knew that kind of domination not so long ago, but has struggled of late. Proof the mojo is back might have come Thursday night in their 92-69 victory over Greece, the team that knocked them off in the semifinals of the world championships two years ago.
Roger Federer and the Williams sisters also know what it's like to be the unquestioned best in the world. However, none will be going home with a singles title. Federer was knocked out by American James Blake, Serena Williams by Russia's Elena Dementieva and Venus Williams by Li Na - of China, bringing more loud cheers and flag-waving from a crowd that waited through a 3½-hour rain delay before tennis began.
The weather was a big factor on Day 6 in Beijing. U.S. baseball and softball games were delayed then stopped, and rowing and canoe-kayak were washed out, while beach volleyball, skeet shooting and archery went on through showers. Sailing was canceled, too, but 300 miles away in Qingdao that was because of low wind and poor visibility.
At day's end, China led the U.S. 34-33 in the overall medal count. But that was likely to change early Friday when Phelps heads into the water.
He'll be swimming the 200-meter individual medley, seeking his sixth gold of these games and the 12th of his Olympic career. And, win or lose, the spotlight will be his once again.
Phelps actually dove in at the Water Cube, but it was only for heats. He qualified .01 behind teammate and top foe Ryan Lochte for the 200 IM during the morning session, then at night advanced out of the 100 butterfly preliminaries.
"I think over the next few days the biggest thing is going to be trying to get as much rest as I can," he said. "If I can do that, I'll be fine."
Another American, Ian Crocker, figured to be Phelps' top foe in the fly. But he'll have to do a lot better than the 51.95 seconds he posted in the 100-meter butterfly preliminaries on Thursday. The world record-holder's time was just the 13th best of the night.
Other challengers also emerged: Kenya's Jason Dunford, who broke Phelps' Olympic record in a heat, then Milorad Cavic of Serbia, who dropped it even lower.
The biggest surprise of nighttime qualifying was Katie Hoff and Kate Ziegler fizzling in 800-meter freestyle heats. That means the U.S. won't medal in that event; Americans have medaled in it every Olympics except the 1980 boycott year and 1976, with five straight golds from 1984-2000.
For Hoff, it meant a second straight Olympics without a gold despite swimming five individual events. She settled for a silver, two bronzes and a pair of fourth-place finishes in her other races.
In the morning session, China's national anthem played at the Water Cube after Liu Zige won the 200 butterfly in a world-record time. The silver medalist also was from China.
France's Alain Bernard set a world record in winning the men's 100; Australia smashed the world record by nearly 6 seconds in the 800-meter freestyle relay; and Japan's Kosuke Kitajima had an Olympic-record time in the 200 breaststroke.
While China's Yang Wei added the individual gold to the team title, Americans weren't able to add anything to their bronze collection. Jonathan Horton finished ninth and Sasha Artemev was 12th.
Things might have been different if reigning champ Paul Hamm was healthy. Without him, it was Yang's to lose and he never came close to that, winning by nearly three points over Kohei Uchimura of Japan. Benoit Caranobe of France won the bronze.
Hiroyuki Tomita, the only other man to win the world title since Athens, finished fourth. Fabian Hambuechen, the silver medalist at world's last year, fell from the high bar, his signature event, and wound up seventh.
"You can think about the what if, what if, what if," said Hamm's coach, Miles Avery. "But Paul isn't here so that isn't an issue."
Yang is China's second men's all-around champion, joining 1996 champion Li Xiaoshuang. Winning at home made it even better.
"The Chinese team is responsible for a lot of people's dreams," Yang said. "This year has not been very good for China. There's been a lot of disasters, so these Olympic Games, there's a lot of pressure. It's impossible not to be nervous, and it's how to cope with the nerves is our job. And right now, I feel very excited."
So much for a men's final between Federer and Rafael Nadal. Or the Williams sisters meeting in the women's final.
Blake, had won only a single set in his previous eight matches with Federer, knocked him out 6-4, 7-6 (2). Blake is the only American left in men's singles.
"If you play him enough times, he's bound to have an off day," Blake said.
Federer leaves with his third straight Olympic disappointment. He also goes away knowing his 4½-year reign as the world No. 1 will end next week, replaced by Spain's Rafael Nadal.
Serena Williams overcame two match points, but ultimately lost to Dementieva 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Li beat Venus Williams 7-5, 7-5.
Top-seeded Mike and Bob Bryan advanced to the semifinals in doubles by beating Lleyton Hewitt and Chris Guccione of Australia 6-4, 6-3.
The redemption the U.S. men's team is seeking won't come until gold medals are hanging around their necks. Still, beating Greece felt darn good.
Mixing passion with unmatchable athleticism, the Americans went up by 19 points before halftime on the way to an easy victory. Kobe Bryant and Chris Bosh each scored 18 points, Dwyane Wade had 17 and LeBron James 13.
Rockets star Yao Ming scored 30 points to lead China past Angola 85-68 for the hosts' first win of the tournament, and Lakers center Pau Gasol scored 13 in Spain's 72-59 victory over Dirk Nowitzki and Germany. Nowitzki was held to 11 points by a defense designed to shut him down.
Bucks center Andrew Bogut was less of a factor for Australia, but they still beat Iran 106-68 behind 24 points from Brad Newley. Also, Rimantas Kaukenas scored 20 points to lead Lithuania past Russia 86-79, and Argentina beat Croatia 77-53.
After posting shutouts and no-hitters in its first two games, the Americans faced their first deficit since the gold-medal game in 2000. And it took some weird circumstances.
The Canadians scored a run without a hit when an umpire ruled that pitcher Monica Abbott made three illegal pitches; her violation was losing contact with the pitching rubber. One of the illegal pitch do-overs led to an error by center fielder Caitlin Lowe, her first in 123 games since joining the U.S. team in 2005. Before that, she went 237 games without a miscue during four perfect years in the field as an All-American at Arizona.
The game was postponed in the fourth inning because of the rain, and the teams will resume play Friday following the U.S.-Japan game, which begins at noon. Canada will play China at 9:30 a.m., and then will have to wait around to play the Americans, who have won 16 straight at the Olympics and are seeking their fourth gold medal in softball's last swing in the games until at least 2016.
"We don't want anyone pushing the panic button," coach Mike Candrea said. "This is a very good team. We've been talking about playing with our backs against the wall. This will be a good test for us."
Stephen Strasburg of San Diego State took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, Matt LaPorta hit a three-run homer and Matt Brown added a solo shot as the Americans bounced back from losing their opener by beating the Netherlands 7-0.
The game was called off after eight innings following a second rain delay. The Dutch protested the decision because they had loaded the bases with none out in the ninth inning, but it was denied by baseball's international federation.
Cuba beat Canada 7-6 and Japan beat Taiwan 6-1.
The Three Musketeers of the U.S. women's saber team weren't so good as a team. After sweeping the individual medals, Mariel Zagunis, Sada Jacobson and Becca Ward settled for bronze after a surprising loss in the semifinals. They were knocked off by Ukraine, which went on to win gold.
"It's just hard coming off the individual competition. You fence so hard, and you only have so many days later," Zagunis said. "I'm not looking for excuses, but we weren't fencing up to our potential."
Remember Rulon Gardner's glorious victory in Sydney? Good, because there won't be one like it this time.
Adam Wheeler unexpectedly won bronze at 96 kilograms, but that was it as Dremiel Byers and Brad Vering, Americans' top Greco-Roman wrestlers, were bounced.
Golds went to Cuba's Mijain Lopez in the 120-kilogram division, Aslanbek Khushtov in 96 kg and Italy's Andrea Minguzzi in 84 kg.
China, which has never won a gold medal in a sport long banned by Mao, has seven boxers left in the tournament. So does Russia, which produced three champions and eight medals at last year's world championships.
Russia's disappointment, and China's elation, came together in a light heavyweight bout, with Zhang Xiaoping upsetting Artur Beterbiev 8-2.
Chinese welterweight Hanati Silamu also beat overmatched Joseph Mulema of Cameroon 9-4 to advance within one victory of a medal. Cuban welterweight Carlos Banteaux avenged a loss earlier this year to Britain's Billy Joe Saunders; Egyptian welterweight Hosam Abdin upset Thailand's Non Boonjumnong, who finished second at last year's worlds; and Croatian light heavyweight Marijo Sivolija-Jelica lost in his first bout since seeing his first-round foe taken from the ring on a stretcher after losing his equilibrium and collapsing.
China's Du Li was supposed to win the first gold of the Olympics. When she finished fifth, she considered dropping out of the games. She stuck around, though, and got a gold after all, winning the women's 50-meter, three-position rifle event and setting an Olympic record in points.
Katerina Emmons, the Czech Republic shooter who won that first event, took the silver. She is married to American shooter Matt Emmons. American Jammie Beyerle was fifth.
In skeet shooting, American Kim Rhode was part of a three-way tie decided by a shoot-off - in the rain. Rhode wound up with a silver to go with the double trap gold she won in 1996 and 2004; the women's version was eliminated before Beijing.
Italy's Chiara Cainero took the gold.
Women's field hockey
No tie for the U.S. this time. They lost instead.
The Americans let a 2-1 lead turn into a 4-2 loss to Germany, dropping to 0-1-2. They'll be hard-pressed to make the medal round with games left against New Zealand and Britain.
"It's been a tough three games for us, but the tournament is still in progress," U.S. coach Lee Bodimeade said.
Men's water polo
The Americans had plenty of chances to upset Serbia, but they were 2-of-27 shooting and couldn't score on three of their five power-play opportunities against a backup goalkeeper. Team captain Tony Azevedo was 0-for-8, including a missed penalty shot.
"After missing the first couple, it seemed like I kept forcing it," he said. "It was totally in my head, not taking the time to relax and put it where I needed to put it."
Two-time defending Olympic gold medalist Hungary improved to 2-0-1 with an 8-5 win over Spain, and top-ranked Croatia thumped Germany 13-5. The Croats are next up for the Americans. Also, Canada's coach was ejected in a loss to Australia, triggering a one-game suspension.
Both American women's teams - Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor, and the duo of Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs - wrapped up a 3-0 record in pool play, sending them into the 16-team medal round beginning Friday. Brazil and China also put a pair of teams into the next round in both the men's and women's fields; in fact, only six teams were eliminated after six days of pool play.
Fire up the barbecue! Mongolia has won its first-ever gold medal in any sport. Kudos to Tuvshinbayar Naidan for taking the men's 100-kilogram division.
China's Yang Xiuli flipped her first four opponents then won in an overtime decision over Cuba's Yalennis Castillo to take the gold medal in the women's 78 kg.
Second-seeded Lee Chong Wei kept Malaysia's best hope for an Olympic gold medal alive with a straight-sets win over Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia in men's singles quarterfinals.
Lee is bidding to win Malaysia's first gold medal in the Olympics. His girlfriend, Wong Mew Choo, lost in the quarterfinals of the women's singles Wednesday, but was in the stands for Lee's match.
While the Chinese women easily reached the semifinals and China's top-ranked men defeated Australia, the pressure of the Olympics seems to be getting to Wang Liqin. The two-time medalist needed four close games to beat a 147th-ranked foe and acknowledges he's struggling to live up to gold-or-bust expectations.
The U.S. women advanced to the bronze medal round.
China's Zhang Juan Juan defeated South Korea's Park Sung-hyun 110-109 to win the women's individual gold. She's the first non-South Korean to win the event since 1980.
"I am very sad in a way because I feel I may have broken the tradition set by those archers who were before me," Park said. "However, I feel that by winning the silver, it will make me crave the gold more and make me appreciate the gold more in the future, so I think it's a good experience."
Some things don't change: Germany won the grand prix dressage, just like it's done every Olympics since 1984. The Netherlands took silver and Denmark the bronze.