Petite U.S. duo packs 1-2 punch on beam

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

BEIJING -- Shawn Johnson's smile was a thousand times wider than the balance beam she had just conquered. Finally, it was a golden grin.

The world champion made a habit of collecting silver at the Beijing Games, and she never stopped smiling. But it wasn't exactly what she came to China for. She ended her runner-up streak with a beam routine Tuesday night that blew away the field, including all-around champ Nastia Liukin, behind whom Johnson got one of her three silvers.

"It's crazy," the 16-year-old Johnson said. "I remember seeing Nastia have hers from the all-around and it is so pretty. Silver is really pretty, too.

"It's the best feeling ever."

Johnson won the gold despite a headache earlier in the day.

"This is what we expected to see," her coach Liang Chow said. "The thing I really am pleased with is she was a little under the weather and she still was able to do a wonderful routine."

Wonderful also describes the Chinese men throughout these Olympics. They swept the two events Tuesday, with Zou Kai winning high bar and Li Xaiopeng winning parallel bars. In all, China took all but one men's event, the vault -- in which there was no Chinese finalist.

China's men won the team title, Yang Wei took the all-around, and the Chinese also took the still rings, pommel horse and floor exercise.

The United States got its only men's individual medal when Jonathan Horton soared through an energetic high bar routine that drew almost as loud a roar as Zou's performance. Horton was second to Zou and also won bronze with the U.S. men in the team finals.

Altogether, the Americans won 10 medals; the U.S women won eight, compared to six for China. The 10 medals surpassed the U.S. total of nine in Athens.

Liukin got a gold, three silver and a bronze to tie the record for an American in one games.

"I'm really happy for her," Liukin said of Johnson, her roommate in Beijing. "Three silvers is kind of hard to take. I couldn't be more proud of her."

National team coordinator Martha Karolyi was ecstatic. After a disappointing start, when the Americans bumbled their way out of a team gold that went to China, they came back with a surge of strong showings.

"This was the right ending to conclude the Olympic Games," Karolyi said. "We proved the supremacy of U.S. women's gymnastics.

While Liukin and Johnson were regulars on the medals podium, Horton's high bar silver in the men's division was somewhat unexpected. He was up against a strong field that included the 2004 gold medalist, Igor Cassina of Italy, and leading qualifier Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands and 2007 world champ Fabian Hambuechen of Germany.

Johnson and Liukin finishing 1-2 in the balance beam was among the highlights for the U.S. delegation at the Olympics on Tuesday.

A gold came from Henry Cejudo, the 21-year-old wrestling prodigy who had wrestled in only one world-level senior tournament before Beijing, in the men's freestyle 55-kilogram wrestling.

Another gold medal came in the 100-meter hurdles, but it wasn't from the expected sprinter, Lolo Jones.

Jones was leading the pack, then hit the second-to-last hurdle and wound up seventh. Gold instead went to Dawn Harper, who grabbed the last spot on the American squad at trials.

"This is a kid nobody knew," said her coach, Bob Kersee. "Now she's an Olympic gold medalist. It's breathtaking."

With 205 of the 302 medals decided, the United States is atop the medals table with 79. Check out the distribution: 26 gold, 26 silver and 27 bronze. Talk about diversity.

China is close behind with 76 total medals, but 43 of them are gold. Other than the U.S., no other delegation has that many of any color. Russia is closest with 42.

Freestyle wrestling

Cejudo, crying the moment his match ended and wrapping himself in an American flag, defeated Tomohiro Matsunaga of Japan 2-2 on a tiebreaker and 3-0 in the best-of-three match. Cejudo was 31st in last year's world championships, his only prior tournament at this level.

Cejudo, the son of undocumented Mexican aliens who bypassed a college career to try to become an Olympian, assures the United States of winning a freestyle wrestling gold for the ninth consecutive Olympics at which it has competed.

Track and field

Sanya Richards was on the medals stand and she wasn't happy about it. She didn't like the color: bronze.

The favorite in the women's 400 meters, Richards led in the stretch but faded at the end, ruining what would've been a great comeback from an illness that cost her most of 2007. Britain's Christine Ohuruogu won, with Jamaica's Shericka Williams taking silver.

"I feel so betrayed by my body once again," said Richards, adding that her hamstring started tightening in the last 80 meters.

In other medal events, Russia's Andrey Silnov won the men's high jump, Bahrain's Rashid Ramzi won the men's 1,500 meters and Estonia's Gerd Kanter won men's discus.

Nothing too surprising happened in the heats of other races, with big names advancing in the men's and women's 200 meters, the men's 400 and the men's 110-meter hurdles.

Women's basketball

Not that there was much doubt, but the U.S. women are headed back to the Final Four of this tournament.

Sylvia Fowles had 26 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Americans on their latest rout, a 104-60 victory over South Korea. The Americans have made the medal round in every Olympics they've entered, and have won 31 straight games since losing in the 1992 semifinals.

The Americans will play Becky Hammon and Russia in the semifinals Thursday night. Russia rallied to beat Spain 84-65 Tuesday night. China plays Australia in the other semifinal.

The Aussies advanced with a 79-46 victory over the Czech Republic. China moved on with a 77-62 victory over Belarus. It's the first time the Chinese are in the medal round since taking silver in 1992.


Despite losing its opener, losing one key player to a gruesome injury and seeing another key player get hurt, the U.S. is headed to the medal round.

The Americans advanced with a 4-2 victory over Taiwan, powered by John Gall's go-ahead homer and a solid outing by pitcher Brandon Knight. The final prelim test comes Wednesday night against medal favorite Japan. The semifinals start Friday.

South Korea and Cuba are advancing, too. Those teams squared off in a battle of unbeatens, and South Korea won 7-4.

"Since we beat the U.S. in our opener, the good luck has stayed with us so far," South Korea manager Kim Kyung-moon said.

Also, Canada beat the Netherlands 4-0 and Japan beat China 10-0.


China is up to 6-for-6 in its bid for all eight golds.

He Chong easily won the men's 3-meter springboard, getting 11 perfect marks of 10.0 in the six-round final. This is the fourth consecutive Olympics China has won this event.

American Troy Dumais was sixth for the third straight Olympics. Teammate Chris Colwill was 12th and last.

Men's soccer

The final is set: Argentina vs. Nigeria.

Argentina is headed back to the Olympic final with the chance to become the first nation in 40 years to defend its title -- and to avenge a loss to Nigeria in the 1996 finals.

Sergio Aguero scored goals six minutes apart in the second half and later set up another to lead Argentina past Brazil 3-0. Nigeria advanced with a 4-1 victory over Belgium that included two scores from long distances.


Germany's Matthias Steiner won the men's super heavyweight division, getting gold and the right to call himself the world's strongest man.

At the medal ceremony, Steiner held up a picture of his wife, Susann, who died in a car accident last year.

"I thought of her before the competition," he said. "I won this for her, for friends and family. But mostly for her."

Steiner lifted a total of 461 kilograms (1,016.3 pounds), clinching the win with a clean and jerk of 258 kg (568.8 pounds).


This wasn't Olympic cycling. It was the British Open.

With Victoria Pendleton winning the women's track sprint and Chris Hoy taking the men's version, the Brits won seven events and 12 medals in cycling, with Hoy claiming three golds.

They were favored to also win the men's madison, but Argentina took it.

The Americans? Not a single medal in the five-day competition. Just like in Athens. It ended with Michael Friedman and Bobby Lea 16th in the Madison, and Jennie Reed seventh in the women's sprint 5th-8th placement race.


American Mike Zadick worked so hard to get to the Olympics. Was it worth it? He wrestled for less than 10 minutes over two matches and didn't score in either one.

"This is an opportunity I've wanted since I started wrestling at 5, 25 years ago, and it's pretty sour to have on me," he said. "It happened so quick, it's just kind of a shock to me, and it's something I'll deal with."

He competed in the 60-kilogram freestyle division, which was won by Russia's Mavlet Batirov. Three-time Olympic gold medalist Alexander Karelin was in Batirov's corner during the match.

Women's volleyball

After a slow start, the U.S. took down Italy in five sets to advance to a semifinal matchup with undefeated Cuba.

Afterward, the team celebrated with abandon. Ogonna Nnamani was joined by her teammate in a dance. They chanted "U-U-U-U-U-S-A!" And, of course, there were hugs all around.

Brazil plays defending champion China in the other semifinal on Thursday.

Women's water polo

The U.S. will be playing for gold, taking on the Netherlands on Thursday, but will do so without center forward Lauren Wenger.

Wenger, the team's most versatile player, broke her right hand in the closing minutes of a 9-8 semifinal victory over Australia. Brenda Villa scored three goals, including the winner with a minute left.

The U.S. is guaranteed to keep alive its streak of winning a medal at every Olympics that has included women's water polo. The Americans won silver in 2000 and bronze in 2004.

The Dutch advanced by upsetting Hungary 8-7 in the other semifinal.


Rami Zur left Athens with a broken neck because of a freak pool accident. He might leave Beijing with two medals.

Zur has reached the semifinals of two kayak single (K-1) events. His berth in the 500 meters was secured a day after making it in the 1,000 meters. Carrie Johnson advanced to the women's semis, giving the U.S. hope of returning to the Olympic flatwater medal stand for the first time since 1992.

Also, Canadian kayaker Adam van Koeverden set a world-best time in the 500-meter kayak single in a qualifying heat. Van Koeverden, who carried Canada's flag at the opening ceremony, is the defending Olympic champion in the 500.

Beach volleyball

Get ready for a rumble.

Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor -- the winners of 107 straight matches, including the last Olympic title -- are headed to the finals against the Chinese duo of Tian Jia and Wang Jie.

The Americans easily beat a Brazilian tandem in the semifinals. Tian and Wang advanced by beating another team from China.

The United States has now reached the podium in all four Olympics since beach volleyball was added to the games in 1996.

"I think they are going to be the Olympic champions, for sure," said Renata, part of the Brazilian team defeated by the Americans.

Men's triathlon

Germany's Jan Frodeno, who was seventh at last year's world championship, worked his way past a pack of foes with more glittering resumes and won the gold medal. The top American was Hunter Kemper, who finished seventh.

Jarrod Shoemaker was 18th, Matty Reed 32nd. Reed's brother, Shane, competes for New Zealand and was 34th.


A light heavyweight from Tajikistan was disqualified for biting his opponent on the shoulder -- and Evander Holyfield, boxing's most famous biting victim, just missed seeing it.

Holyfield was at the arena for much of the evening card, but apparently was gone when Dzhakhon Kurbanov chomped on Kazakhstan's Yerkebulan Shynaliyev during a clinch, drawing blood.

Also, China clinched at least four medals after managing just one at all previous Olympics.

Lightweight Alexey Tishchenko, one of three Russians left after their powerful team's collapse, stayed in contention with a victory. He won the featherweight gold in Athens before moving up in class two years ago.


The U.S. got its first gold from the regatta when British-born Anna Tunnicliffe won the women's Laser Radial class. China's Xu Lijia got bronze, marking the third sailing medal for the hosts.

Britain got its third gold in sailing when Paul Goodison won the men's Laser.

Also, a jury rejected yet another protest about the 49er class gold medal that went to Denmark in a boat borrowed from Croatia. Spain, which would've moved from silver to gold if the Danes were disqualified, said they saw the markings for Croatia and didn't realize it was really the Danes.

Synchronized swimming

Russia's four-time world champion duo, both named Anastasia, kept their front-runner status going through the duet free preliminaries. The final is Wednesday. Americans Christina Jones and Andrea Nott came out of prelims fifth.

Women's handball

Russia needed two overtimes to beat France 32-31 and advance to a semifinal game against Hungary. The Russians came out of pool play undefeated.

South Korea will play Norway in the other semifinal.

Men's field hockey

Australia advanced to the semifinals against Spain. Germany will play the Netherlands.


Anky van Grunsven of the Netherlands won her third straight gold in individual dressage.

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