U.S. men's teams reach gold medal games

Saturday, August 23, 2008

BEIJING -- Put up a net, put American men in action and watch out. At these Olympics, that's becoming an unbeatable combination.

From volleyball to water polo to basketball, the guys in red, white and blue made their country proud Friday.

Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers got it started by winning gold in beach volleyball. Then the U.S. indoor volleyball squad continued its surprising, emotional run by beating Russia and advancing to the gold-medal match for the first time since 1988.

Next came the fun at the pool. The water polo team, which came to China ranked ninth in the world, pulled off the latest in a string of upsets, beating Serbia to also reach the gold-medal match for the first time since '88.

Last, and certainly not least, was the basketball squad.

Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and their NBA All-Star pals chewed up and spit out Manu Ginobili and Argentina in the semifinals to clinch their spot in the finals. Winning with the ease of the original Dream Teams, this "Redeem Team" can put the U.S. back atop the sport for the first time since 2000 with one more win -- against Spain, a team it clobbered by 37 points earlier this tournament.

Speaking of dominating, Usain Bolt added a third gold medal and an unprecedented third world record to his Olympics by helping Jamaica win the 400-meter relay.

At day's end, the U.S. had 102 medals. With more guaranteed from events like volleyball, water polo and basketball, the Americans will have more than the 102 medals won four years ago in Athens, and is closing in on the 108 won in Barcelona in 1992.

China is second in total medals with 89, but is the runaway leader in golds with 47. The Americans are second with 31.

Those medal counts can change, though. Ukraine lost a silver Friday when the International Olympic Committee officially stripped Lyudmila Blonska of her second-place finish in women's heptathlon because of doping. American Hyleas Fountain moves up to second, with a Russian getting bronze.

The IOC also asked China to provide additional proof that five of the six members of its gold-winning women's gymnastics team were old enough to compete. If the IOC finds them to be underage, four medals could be affected.

Track and field

In the final performance of his breakout Olympics, Bolt got the baton when the race was close and ended any doubt by the time his leg was done. Once he made a clean handoff to Jamaican teammate Asafa Powell, the only question was whether they'd get the world record, too.

Yep. At 37.10, they were 0.3 faster than the mark set in 1992 by a U.S. squad featuring Carl Lewis and Leroy Burrell.

Bolt is the first sprinter to claim three world records at one Olympics. He's the fourth guy ever to win all three sprint events; the last to do it was Lewis in 1984.

The U.S. got its fifth gold of this track meet when Bryan Clay took the decathlon.

Basketball

They started fast and finished strong. OK, so they let a 21-point lead trickle to six points in between. Still, the 101-81 victory over Argentina showed that the U.S. is not just out to win, they want to dominate.

Carmelo Anthony scored 21 points and James added 15. Ginobili hurt his left ankle midway through the first quarter and didn't return. Luis Scola picked up his workload and scored 28, helping the defending gold medalists mount a midgame rally.

In the other semifinal, Pau Gasol scored 19 points to lead Spain past Lithuania 91-86 for its first trip to the Olympic finals since 1984.

The Spaniards, winners of the 2006 world championship, are eager to avenge their 119-82 loss to the Americans in pool play.

Volleyball

The Americans played their first three games without coach Hugh McCutcheon, who was with his wife's family after her father was killed and her mother wounded by a knife-wielding attacker during a visit to a Beijing tourist site.

They didn't lose without him. And they haven't lost since he's returned.

By beating Russia 25-22, 25-21, 25-27, 22-25, 15-13, the U.S. clinched its first medal since bronze in 1992. They will play Sunday against Brazil, which beat Italy in the other semifinal.

The Americans won gold in 1984 and '88.

"We've got motivation coming out of our ears," veteran Lloy Ball said.

Beach volleyball

Dalhausser and Rogers gave the U.S. a sweep in this sport, adding to the gold won by the women. Americans have won five of the eight medals since beach volleyball was added to the games in Atlanta.

The guys lost their very first game of the tournament, but closed things out with a dominating victory over Brazil: 23-21, 17-21, 15-4.

The 6-foot-9 Dalhausser had nine blocks in the gold medal match, including three in a row to turn a comfortable 6-1 lead into a 9-1 runaway in the final game.

"That's what good blockers do: When they get on a roll, good luck to you," Rogers said.

Water polo

Between Tony Azevedo's scoring and Merrill Moses' goaltending, these guys can't be beat.

After upsetting world No. 1 Croatia to win their group, the U.S. pulled off another shocker with a 10-5 win over Serbia. Azevedo scored three times, with two assists, two steals and two blocks. Merrill stopped 16 shots, including every one in the final period.

"I knew I had to play the game of my life to keep us in this," Moses said. "It's my best game as of yet. But there's more to come. You'll see."

Next up: two-time defending gold medalist Hungary on Sunday. The Hungarians beat Montenegro 11-9 in the other semifinal.

Diving

China is poised to go 8-for-8 in diving events, with Zhou Luxin leading after the men's 10-meter platform preliminaries.

No country has swept the diving medals since the United States did in 1952. Back then, there were only four events.

Taekwondo

The Lopez family isn't going home with a single gold medal. But all three of them have something to show for their games.

Steven Lopez fell short in his bid for a third straight gold, taking bronze, just like his brother Mark did the day before. Sister Diana got silver.

BMX

The U.S. took three of the first six medals ever handed out in this sport. None, however, were gold.

Mike Day got silver and Donny Robinson the bronze on the men's side. Jill Kintner survived a crash-filled women's main event for bronze.

Baseball

What might be the last gold medal in America's national pastime won't be won by America.

The U.S. squad lost 10-2 to Cuba and will now be playing Japan for the bronze today.

"Playing for bronze isn't what we came here for, but it's what we're doing now," U.S. pitcher Jeff Stevens said. "We want to bring home a medal. We don't want to leave here empty-handed. Japan's thinking the same thing."

Cuba will face unbeaten South Korea in the title game. The Cubans will be seeking their fourth of the five medals handed out in this sport, which is not on the 2012 agenda. By clinching a medal, the 14 players on South Korea's team were exempted from military service.

Boxing

One measly bronze medal is all the U.S. has to show for these games, its worst performance ever.

Deontay Wilder was the lone recipient. It was his consolation prize after being outclassed and outpointed by amateur heavyweight world champion Clemente Russo of Italy in the semifinals.

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