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Today at the Olympics: Gymnastics begins

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  July 29, 2012 05:46 AM

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LONDON -- The deep, well-rounded and inexperienced United States gymnastics team begins competition, LeBron, Kobe and Co. -- I really should include Kevin Durant in that intro -- tip off against Tony Parker and France, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps dive back into the pool, and it's raining at Wimbledon. Yep, the Olympics are officially in full swing. Here's your rundown for Sunday, the second day of competition.

Sunday's must-see event: In terms of popularity and ready-made drama, gymnastics is of course one of the cornerstone events of the summer Olympics -- not to mention NBC's prime-time broadcasts. So it's no surprise that there's already much buzz around the US team, which includes captain Aly Raisman of Needham, Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber, entering today's qualification round. It is the first step in its quest to win the team gold for the first time since Kerri Strug and the Magnificent 7 finished atop the podium in Atlanta in 1996.

Also worth watching: There's plenty of action in the pool, with medals set to be awarded Sunday night in the women's 100 butterfly, the women's 400 freestyle, the men's 4x100 freestyle relay, and the men's 100 breastroke. Michael Phelps didn't swim in the 4x100 prelims Sunday morning but is expected to be part of the final four.

Ryan Lochte, who said he didn't go to sleep last night until around 2 a.m. after winning the gold in the 400 individual medley, is also a candidate for the relay. Lochte qualified for the semifinals of the 200 freestyle Sunday morning.

Missy Franklin won her qualifying heat of the women's 100 backstroke Sunday morning. The semifinals are later.

Medals will also be awarded today in cycling, where Acton native Evelyn Stevens is one to watch, as well as archery, diving, fencing, judo, shooting and weightlifting.

Tweet of the day: Lay off commentating about defending & gking until U get more educated @brandichastain, game has changed from a decade ago. --- @hopesolo, the US women's soccer goalie, calling out Chastain, apparently for critical comments the former Team USA star has made as an NBC analyst about the team's defensive play.

Hmmm. Maybe we should stop debating about how the current US men's basketball team would fare against Larry, Magic, Michael and the 1992 Dream Team and instead ask this: Could Solo and her teammates beat Chastain, Mia Hamm and the gold-medal-winning US World Cup team of 1999? Discuss.

Saturday's big story: Well, it relates to our silver medalist for Tweet of the Day, which would have won pure gold if graciousness had been the determining factor:

Congrats to @ryanlochte ... Way to keep that title in the country where it belongs!! -- @michaelphelps

Of course, there are still plenty of waves in the pool the morning after following Phelps's disappointing fourth-place showing in the 400 individual medley Sunday night, the first time he had failed to medal in an Olympic event he competed in since 2000 in Sydney when he was just 15.

Lochte, who beat the field by such a margin in the 4x100 that one wondered whether he had a secret outboard motor attached, acknowledged that it was strange not have Phelps on the podium alongside him. But what it really means seems to be open to a wide spectrum of interpretation this morning.

The Christian Science Monitor asked, What happened to Michael Phelps? The AP's Paul Newberry noted that while Phelps dominated the 400 IM for years, he's openly loathed the grueling race and only recently began training for it again. Joe Posnanski, writing for Sports on Earth (look for its sister site Sports on Venus soon) offered an ode to aging that could either turn out prescient or premature. As is the standard approach in matters of Olympic debate, I turn to colleague John Powers as the voice of expertise and reason, and he emphasizes this morning that Phelps is not done, for his Olympics have barely begun:

Phelps, who needs three more medals to break the career record set by Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina between 1956 and 1964, could have six more chances here. He’s a candidate for Sunday’s 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay, where he won gold in 2008 and bronze in 2004. He’ll be favored in Tuesday’s 200 fly and should claim another gold as part of the 4 x 200 freestyle relay. On Thursday, he’ll have a rematch with Lochte in the 200 IM, will be favored in Friday’s 100 fly, and will swim on the 4 x 100 medley relay in Saturday’s finale. “The next races that he’s in, he’s going to light it up,” predicted Lochte.

We could find out as soon as Sunday night. Mind the gap, and stay right here for further updates, which will be reported ...


... live. You've been warned, those of you who want your news when NBC decides to give it to you, not when it actually happens.

I'll be checking in from the US men's basketball team's opener against France as well as the swimming events later.

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