Sunday's Olympic roundup

August 11, 2008

BEIJING (AP) -- If Michael Phelps indeed wins seven (or eight) gold medals and gets his $1 million bonus from Speedo, he'll need to spend a chunk on his buddy Jason Lezak.

Lezak dove in for the last lap of the 400-meter freestyle relay second to world-record holder Alain Bernard of France. He was still trailing with about 20 meters to go, but somehow zoomed to the wall first -- 0.08 ahead of Bernard and making Phelps 2-for-2 in his pursuit of Mark Spitz's record medal haul.

Phelps threw his arms up and began hollering with the joy of a lottery winner. He sort of is, considering the odds the Americans faced, from Phelps finishing his leadoff lap in second place to Lezak trailing Bernard after the final turn and considering the history -- and big bucks -- on the line.

The Americans finished in 3:08.24, lowering by 3.99 seconds the world record set the night before by their qualifying crew.


Katie Hoff knows exactly how bummed the French are.

She built a big lead in the 400 freestyle, but touched 0.07 after Britain's Rebecca Adlington. After two of her five individual races, Hoff has a silver and a bronze -- the amount she expected, but not necessarily the right color.

With Christine Magnuson taking silver in the 100-meter butterfly, the United States regained the lead and some breathing room over China in the overall medals race.

Tied at eight when Day 3 began Monday morning in Beijing, the U.S. tally is up to 11. China is still leading in golds, 6-3.

The other big morning news from China -- besides clearer skies, bringing no rain and less smog -- was that Spanish cyclist Maria Isabel Moreno was kicked out after testing positive for EPO. She is the first athlete to fail a drug test during the official Olympic doping control period.

The International Olympic Committee said Monday that Moreno was tested in the athletes' village July 31 and left China later that day before learning the result. The IOC expelled Moreno from the games and asked cycling's world governing body to follow up for any further sanctions. She was supposed to race in the individual time trial.


Lezak's lap took only 46.06, which would have shattered Bernard's world record of 47.50. And, to think, at 32, Lezak is the oldest male on the U.S. Olympic team.

Kudos also go to the guys who swam the middle two laps, Garrett Weber-Gale and Cullen Jones. Jones was the only swimmer who also was part of the record-setting prelim foursome.

Something amazing seems to happen every time Phelps is in the water: an Olympic record in his first swim, a world record in his first final and, now, Lezak's big kick.

Well, Phelps also has finished fourth in two 200 freestyle heats. But don't judge him by those. They were merely time he had to put in to get to the finals Tuesday morning. And now, that'll be his bid for his third gold medal of these games. It also would be the ninth gold of his career, tying the record held by Spitz and Carl Lewis.

In other action at the Water Cube on Monday morning, Magnuson finished behind Australia's Libby Trickett; American Brendan Hansen had the agony of finishing fourth in the 100-meter backstroke and the added disappointed of losing his world record to winner Japan's Kosuke Kitajima; and Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe set a world record in the 100-meter backstroke semifinals, taking down the mark set this summer by American Natalie Coughlin.

In the 400 IM on Sunday, 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."

Dara Torres, the 41-year-old mom 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.

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.


Among the most dramatic moments for Americans on Sunday 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.

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