|Aug 10||Olympic Roundup: Volleyball, Phelps, gymnastics|
BEIJING (AP) On a day that featured Michael Phelps' first gold medal in Beijing and Dara Torres swimming to silver at 41-year-old mom, perhaps the most gripping drama for Americans came from a first-round men's volleyball match against an unheralded foe.
The U.S. team took the court against Venezuela with heavy hearts and a fill-in coach, as Hugh McCutcheon left to be with his wife following an attack at a Beijing tourist site that killed her father and critically wounded her mother.
The Americans huddled, arms linked, then bowed their heads for a moment of silence for Todd and Barbara Bachman, McCutcheon's in-laws and the parents of Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman, a member of the 2004 U.S. Olympic team.
The men then went out and won their first two games. To claim the match, all they had to do was win one of the next three.
It took all three, but they got it.
"We talked about how the best thing we could do was try to play volleyball," team captain Tom Hoff said.
Sunday in Beijing was filled with rain, toying with the tennis schedule and making cycling's road race quite treacherous. Just ask the South Korean who wound up in a roadside ditch.
Unlike Athens, the pool here is indoors, at the spectacular Water Cube. And inside that is the spectacular Phelps.
In his first two swims of this meet, he set an Olympic record in prelims, then set the world record in his first final, the 400-meter individual medley. But the only thing that went wrong was the national anthem cutting off early during the medal ceremony. Odds are, he'll give DJs plenty more chances to get it right.
With 21 medals decided through Sunday night, the Americans and Chinese are pulling away from the pack in the medal count. They're not, however, separating from each other.
Both have eight medals, but give China the advantage because six are gold - and none are bronze. The Americans have two gold, two silver and four bronze.
Phelps proved he's mortal by posting only the fourth-fastest time in the preliminaries of the 200-meter freestyle. It was a tactical move to save his strength, not an indication of being sapped from his incredible show nine hours earlier. He'll swim the 200 freestyle semifinal Monday morning, along with the 400 freestyle relay.
His relay squad will have a tough act to follow: The prelim crew set a world record Sunday night.
In the 400 IM, Phelps was supposed to have tough competition from teammate Ryan Lochte. But he also had secret motivation: He told his coach, Bob Bowman, that he wanted this to be the last time he did this event.
"He said I have to end on a record," Phelps said. "In my opinion, that was my last one."
Torres, competing in her fifth Olympics, was given the anchor leg on the 400-freestyle relay. She dove in second and touched the wall second, fending off Australia but unable to make much of a move on the Netherlands despite posting the second-fastest split time in the race.
"I'm hoping that my age paves the way for other athletes who maybe think they're too old to do something," said Torres, who won her 10th medal, her first since 2000. She started her collection back in 1984.
Katie Hoff finished third in the 400 IM, losing the race - and her world record - to Australia's Stephanie Rice. Elizabeth Beisel, the 15-year-old American who finished first in qualifying, was fourth.
"I can't really be mad," said Hoff, who plans to match Phelps by swimming five individual events in Beijing. "I was only like a half-second off my best time, so I'm happy to get my first medal of the Olympics."
In the men's 400-meter freestyle, reigning world champion Park Tae-hwan of South Korea won the gold, Zhang Lin of China took silver and Jensen was third; at least Jensen can take solace in setting a U.S. record, breaking the mark he set in qualifying the night before. Favored Aussie Grant Hackett of Australia wilted from first to sixth.
The Dutch won the 400 free relay in Olympic-record time.
China was not up to its usual standards. Neither were the Americans. Then again, it was only qualifying. The finals Wednesday surely will be different.
The U.S. squad was limited because Samantha Peszek sprained her left ankle in warm-ups. That left them with only four competitors on floor, vault and balance beam, meaning every score had to count. World champion Shawn Johnson dazzled on the balance beam but the overall effort left something to be desired. Chellsie Memmel fell from the uneven bars and Nastia Liukin fell on the landing in her specialty, the uneven bars.
"We got the nerves out and the mistakes out," Johnson said.
China won the first subdivision, although most of the passion came from the audience. Their coach said their performance "was about 70 percent" of what it could be, although it was still good enough for the top score.
Playing before an adoring home crowd and a television audience that might have been the largest ever for any sporting event, Yao Ming thrilled 'em all by drilling a 3-pointer from the top of the key for the very first basket against the Americans. China hung tough for a while, too, but the high-flying, hard-dunking "Redeem Team" was just too talented.
Dwyane Wade was 7-of-7 and scored 19 points, and LeBron James had 18 in a 101-70 victory. The U.S. squad made 21 of its first 25 shots inside the arc, nearly all right around the rim, but they weren't so hot from long distance - not that it mattered this time.
Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and defending Olympic champion Argentina lost their opener, going down 78-75 to Lithuania when Denver Nuggets forward Linas Kleiza made a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left.
Another NBA player to lose was Andrew Bogut. His 10 points weren't enough for Australia in a 97-82 loss to Croatia.
Dirk Nowitzki was 3-of-3 on 3-pointers and scored 23 points, and Chris Kaman topped him with 24, leading Germany to a 95-66 victory over Angola.
Pau Gasol scored 11 points and Rudy Fernandez had 16 as Spain beat Greece 81-66 in a rematch of the 2006 world championship finals.
In the tournament's opener, former Bucknell standout J.R. Holden scored 19 points and Andrei Kirilenko added 15 to lead European champion Russia past Iran 71-49.
Ana Ivanovic gave away her No. 1 seed at the Olympics, withdrawing because of inflammation in her right thumb that has bothered her for several weeks. Her decision was announced after play was called for the day with only nine of 45 scheduled matches completed.
Ivanovic decided to pull out after trying to practice on the eve of her opening match.
"It's one of the hardest moments in my career," the Serb said. "I'm very, very disappointed."
Among the few players to complete victories was James Blake, at No. 8 the top-seeded American in the men's draw.
Ten matches were suspended and 26 postponed. Serena Williams was interrupted with a one-set lead, and despite a long wait, Roger Federer never got on court.
Phelps isn't the only one at the pool aiming for eight golds. The Chinese divers are, too. And, like Phelps, they're 1-for-1 after world champions Guo Jingjing and Wu Minxia won the women's 3-meter synchronized springboard title. A Russian duo took silver and a pair of Germans got bronze, just ahead of Americans Kelci Bryant and Ariel Rittenhouse. The United States hasn't won a diving medal since 2000.
Britian's Nicole Cooke won the women's road cycling race, held in torrential rain on a course that started in Beijing and ended at the Great Wall. Emma Johansson of Sweden got silver and Tatiana Guderzo of Italy the bronze. Americans finished 25th, 33rd and 52nd.
One rider in the center of the main pack appeared to skid on the wet surface and brought down others around her. All the riders were able to get back on their bikes and continue, but several lost time. South Korea's Gu Sungeon fell into a ditch and was the last to remount.
"We were prepared for heat and humidity," said Amber Neben, the 33rd-place finisher, "and all of a sudden, it's just cold and wet and treacherous."
Thailand's Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarakoon set an Olympic record - for amount of weight lifted in the women's 117-pound class, not for the number of letters in her name, although that might be up there, too. Her haul was 486.2 pounds. South Korea's Yoon Jinhee finished in second place and Natassia Novikava of Belarus got the bronze.
Melanie Roach set an American record with 424.6 pounds, but it was only good for sixth.
The winner came up with her long name last year, after a fortune teller suggested a name change for better luck. The 21-letter surname, which was only "J'' on the scoreboard, means "prosperous." The first name roughly translates to "good girl," said Boosaba Yodbangtoey, the president of the Thai weightlifting federation.
In men's 123-pound division, 17-year-old Long Qingquan of China picked up the gold. Despite his youth, Long was the favorite.
Nobody beats the South Korean in women's archery.
Seriously, it's never happened. The South Koreans won their sixth straight gold medal, every single one since the event's inception in 1988. China got the silver and France took bronze.
"We came to the Olympics with high hopes and expectations," Park Sung-hyun said. "I believe we were able to achieve this medal because of the people around us who helped us."
David Kostelecky of the Czech Republic hit all 25 trap shooting targets to take gold. Giovanni Pellielo of Italy won the silver and Alexey Alipov of Russia won a shoot-off for bronze. World record-holder Karsten Bindrich of Germany was seventh. Bret Erickson, the top American, finished 22nd.
China's Guo Wenjun won the women's 10-meter air pistol with an Olympic-record score. Natalia Paderina of Russia, who set an Olympic record in qualifying, won the silver. China's Ren Jie, the world record holder in the event, failed to qualify for the final.
Reigning Olympic champion Xian Dongmei of China was golden again in the women's 114-pound division, beating An Kum Ae of North Korea.
Japan's Masato Uchishiba won his second straight Olympic gold medal, pinning France's Benjamin Darbelet just seconds into their final match in the men's 145-pound division.
Italy's Matteo Tagliariol topped France's Fabrice Jeannet for gold in a battle of representatives from two of the world's top fencing nations. Spain's Jose Luis Abajo took the bronze.
Sprinter Tyson Gay followed a workout by proclaiming himself "injury-free." He hasn't raced since hurting a hamstring during a 200 heat at Olympic trials in July. His only individual race here is the 100, which begins Aug. 15.
"I think this rest really did me well," he said.
The U.S. team gave up a free kick in the third minute of injury time to settle for a 2-2 tie against the Netherlands. China lost 2-0 to Belgium; the Chinese, who haven't scored in the tournament, must beat leader Brazil in its last group match to have a chance of advancing.
Ronaldinho scored two second-half goals Sunday to lead Brazil into the quarterfinals with a 5-0 rout over New Zealand. Argentina advanced to the quarterfinals with a 1-0 victory over Australia.
Ivory Coast beat Serbia 4-2 Sunday to revive its chances of reaching the quarterfinals. Italy secured a spot in the quarterfinals by beating South Korea 3-0.
Victor Obinna scored one goal and set up another to lead Nigeria to a 2-1 victory over Japan. Stephane Mbia scored in the second half to lift Cameroon past Honduras 1-0.
The IOC has kicked out Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou, saying her role in a drug-testing cover-up four years ago in Athens was "a scandalous saga" that had brought the Olympic movement into disrepute. Thanou and fellow Greek sprinter Kostas Kenteris missed doping tests on the eve of the 2004 opening ceremony, and claimed later they were injured in a motorcycle accident. Thanou issued a statement harshly criticizing a "prearranged mockery of a decision."
The American duo of Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor began their bid for another gold medal with a decisive victory over a Japanese duo. They needed just 36 minutes in an intermittent rain.
"We're in bathing suits," May-Treanor said, adding that the 87 percent humidity was more of a problem. "We're bound to get wet."
During the match, Walsh's wedding ring flew off. It was discovered after about a 20-minute hunt featuring venue workers combing the sand with metal detectors.
"It was pretty much under the net," said Peter Paul Hreszczuk, the FIVB official manning the metal detector. "It's a plain gold band, but obviously very precious."
Americans went 1-1 in the ring, with Demetrius Andrade beating Georgia's Kakhaber Juania 11-9 and Javier Molina getting clobbered 14-1 by Bulgarias Boris Georgiev. Afterward, U.S. coach Dan Campbell revealed that Molina, who at 18 is the youngest American boxer, wasn't cleared to fight until late Saturday after doctors discovered a hole in his lung had leaked air into his body.
Men's water polo
The U.S. men beat host China 8-4, giving former Olympian Terry Schroeder a victory in his Olympic coaching debut, albeit over a team that may not win a game.
Hungary's bid for a third consecutive gold medal got off to a shaky start, needing a goal with 32 seconds left to tie Montenegro 10-10. Also, Spain beat Canada 16-6, Australia knocked off Greece 12-8, Serbia upended Germany 11-7 and world No. 1 Croatia - with the entire team sporting mustaches - beat Italy 11-7.
In their first Olympics appearance since 1996, the Americans dug out of a 2-0 hole and tied Argentina, the worlds No. 2-ranked team, at 2-2.
American Zach Railey, ranked only 18th in the world, hauled in first place overall in Finn class, ahead of three-time Olympic medalist Ben Ainslie of Britain.
"I definitely have to say it is an honor to be the lead," Railey said. "But we are just four races into this and it's a long regatta. We're not even halfway."
Three more Chinese crews finished first in their heats, boosting the total to five top spots in the first two days of Olympic competition and increasing the host nation's chances of winning its first rowing gold. Rain postponed the second day of competition right before the two biggest events - the women's eight and the men's eight. They'll be held Monday afternoon.