Sunday, August 29, 2004
U.S. medal haul hits goal of 100
By Sherry Skalko
ATHENS, Greece -- What does an Olympic athlete think when he hears another country's goal is to win 100 medals?
"Must be America," Australian sprinter Clinton Hill said after winning the silver in the men's 4 x 400, finishing second to you-know-who. "They're a force, they've always been a force, they always will be a force."
The Norwegians, who figured they could win four golds, felt as though they hit the jackpot when Andreas Thorkildsen made it five with his victory in the men's javelin throw. What's more, it broke their gold-medal tie with Sweden, turning their Olympics into an unbridled success. Odds of the spear-chucker ending up on a stamp: 5-to-2.
The British team was heavily criticized back home for being small in numbers and bad in ability. Yet the Brits' win in the men's 4 x 100 raised their medal total to 29, the most they've taken home since the 1920 Games in Antwerp -- and they've participated in all 25 Summer Games. The relay coach had one message for the national media: "Thanks for your support."
So there. Not all countries have a problem with the United States cornering the market on coinage at the Olympics, but Americans sure do. We're the athletic equivalent of rich people feeling guilty for being rich.
(Then again, Australia, Norway and Great Britain are historical allies who have learned to tolerate us. And one of the Nigerian relay runners did seem a bit peeved that the questions at the 4 x 400 press conference were either to the American team or about the American team. Still, he said that in Nigeria a bronze is as good as a gold, so we'll put him down on the "no problem" side.)
Andre Ward's boxing gold in the light heavyweight brought the total to 101 and a bronze picked up Sunday following a doping disqualification brought the grand total to 102. The count then grew to 103 when Mebrahtom Keflezighi of the United States won the silver medal in the men's marathon.
Here's a quick look at the medal amassing (sports listed in alphabetical order):
|A bronze medal by the U.S. men's basketball team -- including, from left, Richard Jefferson, Lamar Odom, Tim Duncan and Amare Stoudemire -- marked the 100th U.S. medal.|
Roundup: One gold (women), one bronze (men).
There is a pretty good chance that players on the women's team were asked more questions about the men's team than they were about themselves. Too bad, because one team had nothing to do with the other. The women showed their veteran savvy in staving off the Russians in the semifinals and the Australians in the final to win a third straight gold medal. They also said goodbye to one of the best leaders in the history of the team, point guard Dawn Staley.
Before labeling the men's bronze a travesty, look at two things: the amount of international experience of the players who competed in Athens, and the amount of international experience of everyone who declined the invitation.
Roundup: One gold, one bronze.
Andre Ward, the only U.S. boxer to advance to a gold-medal match, won the light heavyweight gold in the last bout of the Games. It's the first boxing gold for the U.S. since 1996. Andre Dirrell won the bronze, falling short of his goal to become the first American middleweight gold medalist since Michael Spinks in 1976.
Roundup: One silver.
Rebecca Giddens' solo medal in kayaking single slalom is somewhat of an achievement in a sport that is dominated by Europeans. The United States had won only three medals in the sport's four previous Olympic appearances (1972, 1992-2000).
Roundup: One gold, one silver, two bronze.
Turns out Lance Armstrong knew what he was doing when he pulled out of the Olympics. Getting back on the bike three weeks after the Tour de France was too long for the U.S. guys to keep their peak, so they used the road race as a tuneup for the time trial, which was held two days later. Turned out to be a great plan -- Tyler Hamilton won gold and Bobby Julich won bronze. Deed Barry won silver in the women's time trial.
On Sunday, the Americans added another medal after Colombian cyclist Maria Luisa Calle Williams tested positive for
a stimulant. She had finished third in the points race, but was stripped of the medal, which now belongs to American Erin Mirabella of
Racine, Wis., who moved up from fourth.
Note to whomever is in charge: Making cyclists ride through streets of a city that is wrapped in a haze of air pollution in searing 93-degree heat violates the Geneva Convention. Or at least it should.
Roundup: Two silver, three bronze.
The upside: The United States took home more medals in the sport than any other country. The downside: none was gold. Still, the performance showed that the United States is closing the gap on its European counterparts and may help in shedding the sport's elitist image.
Roundup: One gold, one bronze.
Oregon resident Mariel Zagunis broke a 100-year gold-medal drought for Americans in fencing by winning the women's individual sabre in the event's Olympic debut. The United States hadn't won a gold in the sport since 1904. Sada Jacobson was third.
Roundup: Two gold, six silver, one bronze.
According to women's team captain Mohini Bhardwaj, "We kicked ass." They sure did, with two golds in the individual all-around, two silvers in the team all-around and four on individual apparatuses. But one Russian female and the entire country of South Korea were none too pleased (put them in the "problem" column).
Carly Patterson became the first American woman to capture the all-around since Mary Lou Retton in 1984. But she'll also be remembered for her grace. When Russian Svetlana Khorkina boasted she was "still Olympic champion" despite the silver hanging around her next, Patterson first gave a steely glare, then chuckled and responded with "no comment" when asked what she thought of Khorkina.
Paul Hamm came back from 12th place after almost landing in a judge's lap on vault to win the men's individual all-around (becoming the first U.S. man to win the title). South Korea said it tried to protest the low start value on a parallel bars routine by Yang Tae-young, but wasn't allowed to. The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) called the case closed, but sent a letter to Hamm through the U.S. Olympic Committee trying to guilt him into handing over the gold.
No truth to the rumor that the USOC finally told FIG president Bruno Grandi to take a long walk of the high bar because the goal of 100 medals was in jeopardy. But president Jacques Rogge has said the IOC will not consider changing the result. "Our position is extremely simple,'' he said. "The FIG has certified the result of the gymnastics competition. The IOC has awarded the medals according to the certified results. Paul Hamm was declared the winner and therefore he has received the gold medal, and for us that is final.''
Roundup: Two gold, one silver.
A bronze from 1996 already in hand, judo fighter Jimmy Pedro retired after finishing fifth in Sydney. But after watching speedskater Derek Parra win a gold medal in Salt Lake two years ago, Pedro called his wife and told her he had changed his mind. Pedro won bronze on the first Monday of the Games -- and promised his wife never to watch another medal ceremony again.
How many people gain 26 pounds and still perform like their old selves? How about Steven Lopez, who after winning the 150-pound division in Sydney took home the 176-pound gold in taekwondo in Athens. Meanwhile, Nia Abdallah became the first American woman to win a match in the sport, which was added to the Olympic program in 2000, and captured silver.
Roundup: One gold, one silver.
The U.S. men ended a 40-year drought by taking home the gold in the elite eight. The men established themselves as the team to beat after they set a world record -- with the help of a strong tail wind -- in their initial heat with a time of 5 minutes, 19.85 seconds. The women's eight won silver, but their celebration was a bit subdued as they were favored before finishing second to a Romanian crew they had beaten in an earlier heat.
Roundup: One gold, one silver.
After winning two silver medals in his previous three Olympics, Paul Foerster wasn't going to settle for another in his fourth appearance in the Games. He and crewman Kevin Burnham, who was sailing in his third Olympics, beat a British boat in a match-race battle for the gold in the men's 470 class. John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree won silver in the Tornado class.
Roundup: Two gold, one silver.
Matt Emmons won gold in the men's 50-meter rifle prone, then was on his way to a second in the three-positions category when he shot at the target in the next lane. Oops. His mistake dropped him out of first and down to eighth, which opened the door for teammate Michael Anti to win the silver.
Kimberly Rhode ushered women's double trap in during the 1996 Games, winning gold in the discipline's debut, and escorted it out with a gold, as well. The event will be discontinued after these games.
Roundup: One gold.
Isn't it nice to wear gold to your retirement party? Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Joy Fawcett are calling it an international career after redeeming themselves from a disappointing loss to Norway in the 2000 final and a third-place finish in last year's Women's World Cup. The Fab Five will never play together again in a major tournament, but the future is bright with younger stars such as Abby Wambach and Heather O'Reilly leading the way.
Roundup: One gold.
The U.S. women went undefeated, outscored their opponents 51-1 and surrendered only 18 hits in 56 innings -- a feat that appeared to violate the Olympic spirit but earned them the gold medal nonetheless. The victory was especially sweet for the team, which dedicated the journey to Sue Candrea, their coach's wife who died suddenly a month ago.
Roundup: 12 gold, nine silver, seven bronze.
Considering there are 32 events in the sport, winning more than a third of them is a pretty good Games.
Don't knock Michael Phelps for falling short of winning eight gold medals and surpassing Mark Spitz in Olympic history. Phelps still won eight medals -- six gold and two bronze -- which is more than 17 countries that swam the Olympic lanes. He gave up his spot on the 400 medley relay and watched as his teammates set a world record. He also set six Olympic or world records of his own.
Natalie Coughlin won five medals -- two gold, two silver and a bronze -- including three in the relays, which she chose over individual events.
With a silver in the 400 medley relay, Jenny Thompson became the most decorated U.S. Olympian with her 12th career medal, breaking a tie with swimmers Spitz and Matt Biondi and shooter Carl Osburn.
And if you think Phelps had pressure on him, wait until you see the look on the faces of the Chinese swimmers in 2008.
Synchronized swimming (two)
Roundup: Two bronze.
The Americans returned to the podium after failing to medal in Sydney for the first time since the sport was introduced in 1984. Alison Bartosik and Anna Kozlova earned a bronze in the duet, which was duplicated by the United States in the team event. Synchro team member Tammy Crow's celebration won't last long -- she starts serving a three-month sentence for vehicular manslaughter on Oct. 25.
Roundup: One silver.
Mardy Fish was unseeded entering the Olympics, but lasted longer than Andy Roddick, Venus Williams and Martina Navratilova. Fish succumbed in five sets to Chile's Nicolas Massu, who combined with Fernando Gonzalez to win the country's first gold medal in any sport the night before.
Track and field (25)
Roundup: Eight gold, 12 silver, five bronze.
These were supposed to be the BALCO Games, but the U.S. Track and Field team managed to escape without scandal. It did, however, have its ups and downs.
Up: For the first time, the United States celebrated a medal in both the men's and women's marathon. After pulling from eighth to third in the final few miles, Deena Kastor earned the first U.S. marathon medal in 20 years. Then on Sunday, Mebrahtom Keflezighi of the United States won the silver medal in the men's marathon.
Up: The men took eight of the nine individual sprint medals, finishing first and third in the 100 meters, then sweeping the 200 and 400. They also won the 1,600-meter relay.
Down: The men's 400-meter relay almost ran over itself. A lack of practice time led to a lack of cohesion and Justin Gatlin's stepping on Coby Miller's shoe. They managed a silver finish.
Up: Dwight Phillips (gold) and John Moffit (silver) returned the U.S. men to the medal stand after being shut out in the long jump for the first time in Sydney.
Up: Joanna Hayes won gold and set an Olympic record with a 12.39 in the women's 100-meter hurdles. Melissa Morrison won the bronze.
Down: Gail Devers failed to qualify for the final in the 100, then pulled up lame before reaching the first hurdle in the 100-meter hurdles.
Up: Lauryn Williams, Allyson Felix and Justin Gatlin show that U.S. sprinting has a bright future. Williams, 20, won silver in the women's 100; Felix, 18, won silver in the women's 200; and Gatlin, 20, won the men's 100.
Down: Marion Jones. Maybe it was the BALCO investigation. Maybe it was the six long jumps. Whatever it was, Marion finished fifth in the long jump and was part of a botched handoff with Williams in the 400-meter relay, leaving Athens without any hardware. Word of caution -- if you want a piece of Marion Jones, you'll have to go through LaTasha Colander, who aggressively defended Jones in the post-race news conference.
Up: The highest feat -- or is that highest feet? -- was by pole vaulter Tim Mack, who set an Olympic record with a vault of 19 feet, 6¼ inches. He and teammate Toby Stevenson went head to head for the title well after the other athletes had left Olympic Stadium.
Roundup: One bronze.
Susan Williams, the last American to qualify for the event,, crashed her bike but still finished with the bronze. The 34-year-old had stopped training for the 2000 Games when she found out she was pregnant with her daughter, Sydney, who joined mom on the podium. Sydney brought tears to many eyes when she playfully stole Williams' wreath to put on her own head.
Roundup: One gold, one bronze, both in women's beach volleyball.
The biggest news at the beach might not have been the women's winning two medals, or even an unblemished run to gold by Misty May and Kerri Walsh. Instead, a first-round loss by men's gold-medal favorites Dane Blanton and Jeff Nygaard was simply shocking. It only got worse later, though, when the pair stopped speaking to each other.
May and Walsh put together the most dominant run in the history of beach volleyball, never dropping a set in seven matches. Meanwhile, Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs took bronze. (Note to the boss: There is a man passed out beneath the bleachers. I think it's Jim Caple.)
Water polo (one)
Roundup: One bronze.
After losing the gold medal to Australia in Sydney, the U.S. women got their revenge in Athens. Unfortunately, it was in the bronze-medal game. Ellen Estes stole the show with three goals -- including the decisive one -- in the match.
Roundup: One gold, three silver, two bronze.
It was the end of one era and the beginning of another at Ano Liossia Hall. Greco-Roman heavyweight Rulon Gardner, the man who handed Russian great Alexander Karelin his only international loss in the gold-medal match in Sydney, left his shoes on the mat after winning bronze and retires as the most decorated American in the sport. Sara McMann (silver) and Patricia Miranda (bronze) both won medals in the Olympic debut of women's freestyle.
Meanwhile, Cael Sanderson picked up at the Olympics where he left off at Iowa State. The first collegian ever to go undefeated in all four years (159-0), Sanderson also went unbeaten in Athens and won gold at 185 pounds.