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Thursday's roundup: Lochte will have middle lane as Phelps vies for 6th gold

August 14, 2008

BEIJING (AP) -- Shocking news from the pool: Michael Phelps finished second in something! Well, it was merely in qualifying for the 200-meter medley finals.

On the first day he wasn't chasing gold, Phelps won his semifinal heat, then saw teammate and top foe Ryan Lochte go 0.01 second faster in his. That means Lochte will have the coveted middle lane in Friday's race, when Phelps will be looking for his sixth medal in Beijing and 12th of his Olympic career.

Perhaps the bigger shocker Thursday was that neither set a world record because they sure were falling during the morning session at the Water Cube.

France's Alain Bernard moved back atop the 100-meter freestyle list, beating Australia's Eamon Sullivan and taking away the mark he set in qualifying; Liu Zige broke the 200-meter butterfly record in winning China's first swimming medal of these games; and Australia smashed the standard by nearly 6 seconds in the 800-meter freestyle relay, giving Stephanie Rice her third gold of these games and making it 18 world records set at this meet.

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Japan's Kosuke Kitajima may not have set a world record, but he did have an Olympic-record time in the 200-meter breaststroke, and he became the first swimmer to sweep the two breaststroke events at consecutive Olympics.

American Jason Lezak, the anchor-leg star of Phelps' dramatic 400 free relay gold, added a bronze to his collection in the 100 free. Katie Hoff, Natalie Coughlin and their U.S. teammates took bronze in the 800 free relay.

The swimmers weren't the only ones to get soaked Thursday as drenching rain returned to Beijing. Beach volleyball, archery and shooting were among those to play through it. Baseball did, too, but with delays. Softball was suspended until Friday with the U.S. trailing Canada 1-0 in the fourth inning. Rowing and canoe-kayak also called it a day. Sailing was scrapped because of light winds. Tennis was suspended before even starting.

Conditions were perfect for China's Yang Wei at the National Indoor Stadium, where he won the men's gymnastics all-around title, perhaps letting him shed his derisive nickname of "Silver Collector" earned for finishing second in Sydney and at the 2003 world championships.

Through seven of the 17 medal events Thursday, the United States and China were tied atop the medals chart with 32 each.

China also has 20 of the 77 golds thus far. Other than the U.S., no country has won 20 total medals. Australia is third with 16.

Men's gymnastics

While Yang 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."

Swimming

There was other news from the pool beyond the records. Like Pieter van den Hoogenband announcing his retirement after finishing fifth in 100-meter freestyle, the event he won at the last two Olympics. His winning time in Sydney was the world record until March, and has been bettered several times since then, including Wednesday and Thursday.

"Way too fast. It's a new generation, and it's now time to step aside," Van den Hoogenband said.

Van den Hoogenband, 30, won three golds and seven medals overall in his Olympic career.

Lezak's bronze is the first individual award of his career, a special feat for the 32-year-old who is the oldest man on the U.S. team.

"It doesn't top the relay medal, but it's something I've been pushing for for years," he said.

Hoff is still looking for gold after competing in five events. She has a silver and two bronzes with only one race left, the 800 free.

"It definitely gives me more motivation," Hoff said. "I'm a little bit tired and I have a full day to recover."

Phelps headed back to the athletes' village.

"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."

Men's basketball

Having a star NBA center is always a good thing.

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