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Sunday, August 22, 2004
Favored U.S. women's eight wins silver

Associated Press

SCHINIAS, Greece -- The American men's elite eight crew ended a four-decade drought in rowing gold medals on Sunday, pulling out to a big lead and fending off a late charge by the Netherlands.

The women's eight won a silver medal Sunday, but had a more subdued celebration. The Americans were favored, but finished behind the Romanian boat that they had edged in their initial heat.

After the men's win, Pete Cipollone turned to face the grandstands and splashed water with both hands, celebrating a clutch performance. Later, after receiving their medals, his teammates threw him back into the water, laughing as their 5-foot-1, 120-pound coxswain flew through the air and splashed down.

The Americans had set themselves up as the team to beat by setting a world record in their initial heat a week ago.

They edged Canada in the preliminary, forcing their highly regarded rival to enter the finals through a repechage -- or second-chance race. Canada won that, but seemed to have nothing left in the final, struggling to fifth.

Without the strong tail wind of last week, the U.S. men weren't close to their world-record time of 5 minutes, 19.85 seconds, but had little trouble with the rest of the field. They got off the line quick and turned a half-second lead at 500 meters into a commanding 3.26 at 1,000.

From there, it was only a matter of staying strong enough to keep the lead. The Netherlands closed the gap by nearly 2 seconds over the next 1,000 meters but the U.S. never appeared threatened, finishing in 5:42.48.

The Netherlands held on for the silver. Australia got the bronze.

Romania's women's eight, came up short by .3 seconds to the American women in the preliminary heats, did not wait as long to make its move this time. The Americans, undefeated in 2004 coming in, had small leads at both the 500- and 1,000-meter marks, but Romania picked up its stroke for the remaining 1,000 to pull away for a 1.86-second victory, finishing in 6:17.70.

During the post-race celebrations, several men slipping by security and swam out the boats to kiss the rowers from their countries.

The only country to win gold in women's quadruple sculls since it became an Olympic event kept the streak going. Now five-time champion Germany led from start to finish.

The German boat, including now four-time sculling gold medalist Kathrin Boron, led the whole way and crossed the line in 6:29.29, while Britain won silver and Ukraine bronze. The United States finished sixth.

The Romanian tandem of Constanta Burcica and Angela Alupei rowed back from a 2-second deficit in the last half of their 2,000-meter race on Sunday to defend their Olympic title.

It was the third consecutive gold medal in the event for Burcica, who won with a different partner in 1996 at Atlanta. The Germans won the silver and the Netherlands took bronze.

After falling behind the Australians and Germans early, the Romanians surged past both boats down the stretch to finish in 6:49.90.

No one could match the defending Olympic champions in the men's lightweight double sculls. Poland's Tomasz Kucharski and Robert Sycz pulled out an early lead and held of France, finishing in 6:20.93. France was a half-second back.

Greeks Vasileios Plymeros and Nikolaos Skiathitis gave the host country its first Olympic rowing medal. They were fourth by more than a second with 500 meters to go and sprinted past Denmark for their country's historic win, eliciting a brief but enthusiastic cheer from the home crowd.

Denmark, two-time defending world champion in the lightweight four, added an Olympic victory that never seemed in doubt from the start. That meant a second gold and third Olympic medal in the event for Eskild Ebbesen, who rowed in a winning boat in Atlanta and won a bronze in Sydney.

Denmark finished in 6:01.39, followed by Australia and Italy.

The three-time defending world champion Germans didn't have it in the men's quadruple sculls. Russia took the gold in 5:56.86, followed by the Czech Republic and Ukraine, while the Germans crossed the line in fifth.