Track and field
LONDON -- Welcome to Day 17 of competition, the final day of the London Games (already?) and one with a couple of highly anticipated events on the schedule. Medals will be awarded in 10 events, including the men's marathon, but this day belongs to basketball more than any other.
Sunday's must-see event: Spain has never beaten the US men's basketball team in 10 previous Olympic meetings, but they have at least a puncher's chance Sunday afternoon against LeBron James and his supporting cast of fellow superstars. If the US has a relative weakness, it is inside play, with only Tyson Chandler serving as a legitimate center on the roster. Spain features the Gasol brothers, efficient Pau and bruising Marc, and if both play to the peak of their abilities, at the very least Spain could make it interesting.
Also worth watching: The Closing Ceremonies, despite the apparent involvement of the Spice Girls. What, Wham! could not be reunited in time? (Actually, George Michael is expected to perform.) It will be difficult to match the standard set by the thrilling Opening Ceremonies, masterminded and executed by acclaimed film director Danny Boyle, but the Brits are promising a "cheesy and cheeky'' conclusion. Did I mention that the Pet Shop Boys are also part of the festivities?
Saturday's big story: Yup, he's cocky. But he's the good kind of showboat, because Usain Bolt gives the crowd -- and here in London, it is a universally adoring one -- a show, and then he backs up his boasts and then some. Last night, he put the final exclamation point on his transcendent, three-gold-medal performance here, running the anchor leg of Jamaica's record-shattering 4x100 relay. Who cares what starched old Jacques Rogge thinks? Bolt is a legend in his own time. So what if he'll tell you so?
Tweet of the day: “Who would come watch @usainbolt play cricket for the Melb Stars in 2012 Should I continue chatting to him & try and make it happen?" -- @shanewarne, an Australian cricket legend who may give Bolt a shot in that sport.
I'll be back later with live updates from the Closing Ceremonies, but in advance, thanks for reading, everyone. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. The gap has been minded.
LONDON -- Welcome to Day 16 of competition, the penultimate day of the London Games and yet one of the biggest days in terms of total medals being awarded. Fifteen different sports will distribute gold, silver and bronze Saturday, including eight in athletics alone.
Saturday's must-see event: Bolt. There's probably no need to elaborate beyond the most famous and appropriate surname of these Games, but perhaps a reminder is needed that the 4x100-meter relay will not only be Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt's final event of London, but there's a chance it's the 27-year-old's final Olympic appearance. He is expected to run the anchor leg for favored Jamaica. One more gold and one more electric moment seems like something he'll be able to conjure up.
Also worth watching: The official term for it is the women's Olympic basketball gold medal game. I prefer calling it the UConn Alumni Game better. Team USA, which is coached by Geno Auriemma and features four Huskies legends (Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, and Swin Cash) as well as the likes of Candace Parker and Tina Charles, takes on France with the gold medal at stake. History suggests it's a formality for Team USA, which is going for its fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal and 41st straight victory.
Friday's big story: No botched handoffs. No mishaps. Just blazing leg after blazing leg, until the US women's 4x100-meter relay team had overcome its odd recent history and shattered a 27-year-old world record in the event.
It was Carmelita Jeter who ran the anchor leg as the US completed the event in 40.82 seconds, more than a full half-second faster than the dubious standard set by East Germany in 1985. It was the first time the US had won the event since 1996, notoriously fumbling the baton both in 2004 and 2008 when they were among the favorites.
“I was thinking Olympic record, and when I saw world record I said, ‘Oh gosh,’ ” said Allyson Felix, who ran the second leg. “This is crazy.”
Tweet of the day: "WORLD RECORD, IT FELT AMAZING." -- @CarmelitaJeter, after the women's 4x100-meter relay.
Mind the gap, and stick around right here for further updates throughout the day.
LONDON -- Had a chance to catch up with decathlon gold medalist Ashton Eaton Friday afternoon at the P&G House, the home-away-from-home here for United States athletes and their families. For a guy who was just newly-minted as the World's Greatest Athlete, he's about as affable and laid-back as it gets. Must be his Oregon roots. Here are his answers to our five questions:
I know it's just Day 1 for you as a gold medalist, but often things change immediately after someone gets to the top of a podium here. Have you been recognized or approached more?
Eaton: "I think after Eugene [the site of the US track and field Olympic trials], it was more like that, so I was kind of used to it. But you know, I can be walking around over here and someone with a Union Jack painted on his face will come up and say, 'Hey, can we get a picture with you?,' and I'm always still a little surprised. But I haven't got my medal yet so I can't walk around with it or anything like that. I have a bunch of family and friends, high school and college friends, who came over here to watch. And they have access to the village, so I was like, 'Guys, I've got to go to bed,' but they talked me into going out with them, and I hung around with them a little bit. I didn't get done NBC stuff until like 2:30 a.m., so it ended up being pretty laid back."
2. Usain Bolt likes to refer to himself as the world's greatest athlete, and he can make a pretty good case. But after he won the 200 meters, he said it was you because you do 10 events. Had you heard about that?
Eaton: "I heard about that, and it was cool. But we each have our own accolades and accomplishments and things we do well. He's the fastest man who has ever walked the face of the earth. That's what the 100-meter guy gets. The winner of the decathlon gets world's greatest athlete. I do see the decathlon as one big event. I think about it as a whole. The whole thing is challenging, there's never one event that I was super-good at. One day I'll do the shot-put and I just may not be getting it and I'll be super frustrated. The next day it may be the discus that I'm not getting and I'll be super frustrated. It's mostly equal across the board."
3. Do you feel like there's some kind of expectation of you to bring the decathlon more into the sports consciousness in the United States? It has this rich history, from Jim Thorpe to Bruce Jenner and more recently, Dan O'Brien, and yet it has this perception as sort of an afterthought compared to what it was a couple of decades ago.
Eaton: "I don't really feel the pressure of it. I think no matter what people say it's always ebb and flow in terms of popularity. This may be a new height, who knows, or it may be coming up right now. I love it, and I hope I help some other people love it like I do. But it's not really something you can control beyond being a good representative of the sport and giving it your best every time you compete.''
4. Dan O'Brien has said you're the best ever. You have the world record for total points in a meet [9,039], and now you have a gold medal. How much higher can you go? Is there a specific goal?
Eaton: I think I can eventually score a lot of points. I used to have a set number, but you know, I got to it. That's why I don't set goals, because I'm like, 'Who knows?' But I would like to score 9,200 points. I think I can do that.''
5. Was there ever a sport or a discipline that you didn't really take to? Tell me you weren't much of a pee-wee hockey player or something like that.
LONDON -- Welcome to Day 14 of competition -- yep, we're two full weeks into this thing, with three days of Games left to go. Hard to believe this is coming to an end faster than Usain Bolt coming around the turn (OK, not quite that fast), but there's still plenty of good stuff yet to come. Today's docket includes medals in athletic, boxing, BMX cycling, field hockey (a very fun sport to watch live), sailing, soccer, swimming, synchronized swimming (where Harvard's Alex Meyer competes in the 10-kilometer open water race) , taekwondo, and wrestling.
Friday's must-see event: On most days -- perhaps all of them before today -- a medal event would be mentioned in this space. But the most intriguing competition Friday is a rematch of a game that actually happened Monday, and wasn't even close. The United States men's basketball team takes on Argentina in the semifinals, four days after beating them by 29 points (126-97). Another blowout is possible with the talent on the US roster and LeBron James playing as well as he ever has, but history suggests Argentina will make a game of it. In an Olympic tuneup less than three weeks ago, the winning margin for the US was just six (86-80), and the more recent game was close into the third quarter until Kevin Durant matched the entire Argentinian team with 17 points in the frame. Argentina was the first team to beat a US team constructed of NBA stars (2002 World Championships), and they took them down two years later to win the gold in Athens. With proud, tough veterans such as Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola, Argentina should provide the US with its toughest test in the tournament.
Also worth watching: Medals will be awarded in six athletics events today: the men's 4x400 and pole vault, and the women's hammer throw, 5,000-meters, 1,500-meters, and 4x100 relay. It's the latter that should stand as the most compelling competition. The US blazed through its qualifying heat (41.64 seconds), but in recent Olympics the team has had a history of mishaps and has not won gold since Atlanta. That could change Friday with Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter leading the US foursome, but Jamaica, with 100-meter gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell-Brown on its side, should be right there stride for stride.
Thursday's big stories: Gotta go plural here, or at least one Big Story, Team Division and one Big Story, Individual. The first is the US women's soccer team's 2-1 victory over Japan, avenging their loss on penalty kicks in the World Cup final last year, a disappointing defeat that served as motivation to accomplish what they did Thursday night. “They snatched our dream last summer,” Megan Rapinoe said. “And this kind of feels like the nightmare turned back around.”
As for the individual who stole the night, well, who else but Usain Bolt? The transcendent, so-cocky-it's-comical sprinter completed his double-double, winning the 200-meters for the second straight Olympics just as he had in the 200. His breathtaking acceleration coming around the turn was reminiscent of Michael Johnson doing the same in Atlanta in 1996. In his usual humble way, he declared himself a "living legend'' afterward, which of course is entirely true.
Tweet of the day: While the media is pumping up the familiar names @CarliLloyd was focusing on making sure she outworks everyone and outshines everyone. -- James Galanis (@coachgalanis), a former coach of US women's soccer standout Carli Lloyd. Lloyd, who had both US goals in its 2-1 victory over Japan, retweeted the sentiment.
Mind the gap, and stick around right here for further updates throughout the day.
LONDON -- Welcome to Day 13 of competition, during which 10 sports will award medals. The schedule is dotted with exciting events all over the city, including the women's soccer final against Japan, the gold-medal women's water polo match, the final five events of the decathlon (American Ashton Eaton enters with the lead), and, yes, the more compelling athlete here sprinting for another slice of history.
Thursday's must-see event: At first, I had trouble deciding between a couple for this designation this morning, but then somewhere after the first cup of coffee the truth, as obvious as it should have been all along, became evident: Anytime Usain Bolt is involved, it is the must-see event. And that goes double when he's going for a double -- Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter and world-wide icon whose status here exceeds even that of the Team USA basketball players, will try to become the first ever to win the 100- and 200-meter races in back-to-back Games. He'll be in pursuit of more history, starting with the Olympic record in the event (19.30 seconds). In pursuit of him will be his countryman and training partner Yohan Blake, and it would be a shock if anyone else in the field challenges them. Bolt says this is his favorite race because it's more tactically challenging than the 100 meters. Chances are he'll reaffirm that after winning it Thursday night.
Also worth watching: The United States women's soccer team takes on Japan in the Thursday's gold medal match. Japan beat the US in a shootout in the World Cup final. How hungry is the US to avenge that loss? Abby Wambach can tell you:
"Every single player on this team, whether they're even here or not, even players that are left back in the United States, they've given us all an opportunity to train, to work, to dedicate, to sacrifice, every single day since the World Cup, so that we can have this one chance, the one more chance, the 90 more minutes," said Wambach, who scored the tying goal in the US's thrilling 4-3 win over Canada in the semifinals.
"All of us have dreamed about it. We've had nightmares about it even, what happened last summer. This is an opportunity for us for not even redemption, but to prove ourselves, to let whatever happened last summer go -- and be in a position to go after and take the gold medal because we believe that we've earned it. It's going to take 90 minutes of a great performance of the best team in the world, and that's going to be the team that's going to be sitting on the top podium."
Yeah, I'd say they're ready for this. But it almost seems destined to come down to a shootout again, doesn't it?
Wednesday's big story: Allyson Felix is just 27 years old, but she's been the golden girl of US track and field for nearly a decade. Yet until Wednesday night, she had never won an Olympic gold medal in her signature event, the 200 meters, having finished with a silver medal in 2004 in Athens and four years ago in Beijing, the latter a disappointment that left her in tears after the race. So when Felix breezed to gold in 21.88 seconds, beating a field that included two-time defending gold medalist Victoria Campbell-Brown, it was both cathartic and fulfilling.
"Gosh, it's been a long time coming," said Felix. "I think the moment that motivated me most was losing on the biggest stage. At the time I said I'd give all my world championship medals  for that gold. Now I can say I embraced the journey."
Tweet of the day: I want to apologize for my stupid act at the end, I showed a bad image of France and myself, Congrats to team Spain. -- France forward Nicolas Batum (@nicolas88batum), apologizing for punching Spain's Juan Carlos Navarro in the groin during Spain's medal-round basketball victory Wednesday. He wasn't quite so remorseful at first, saying he did it because Navarro and the Spain guards wouldn't stop flopping.
Mind the gap, and stick around right here for further updates throughout the day.
LONDON -- Welcome to Day 10 of competition, which is not shaping up as a big day for marquee events, though there's plenty going on, with medals being awarded in eight sports, including five in track and field.
Monday's must-see event: Last time it took the court, the United States men's basketball team played lethargically against Lithuania and didn't lead for good until there were less than six minutes to play before winning, 99-94. Monday night is its first time on the court since the near-upset, and the Americans will be playing Argentina, a team they defeated by just 6 points in a pre-Olympic tuneup in Barcelona. While the US is all but assured of clinching the top seed in its pool even with a loss in its final game before the medal round, it hardly looked invincible against Lithuania. And with a roster that includes Manu Ginobili (get ready for some referee-duping flopping) and Luis Scola, Argentina is equipped to put a scare into the US if the sluggishness continues.
Also worth watching: A lot, no matter what your interests. Individual all-around gold medalist Gabby Douglas competes in the women's uneven bars, one of three gymnastics medals that will be awarded, along with men's vault and rings. Hope Solo and the US women's soccer team take on Canada in the semifinals. At the track, the most compelling race could be the men's 400, which changed in tenor when favorite LeShawn Merritt, the gold medalist in Beijing, suffered a hamstring injury in the preliminaries and had to bow out.
Sunday's big story: How about we answer this one with a Local Newspaper Medley?
The Sun goes with the local angle -- Andy Murray's gold medal in men's singles tennis. The other two go with the most anticipated event of the London Games, the men's 100-meter race, which lived up to its billing and then some when Usain Bolt blazed a 9.63 to repeat as the gold medalist Sunday night. He sure knows how to rise to the occasion, doesn't he?
Tweet of the day: Big congrats to @HolleyMangold for her competition at the Olympics! As an older brother I couldn't be more proud! #TeamUSA -- Jets center Nick Mangold, who left training camp and flew to London to watch his sister compete in the weightlifting competition. She finished 10th in the 75-kg group Sunday.
Mind the gap, and stick around for further updates.
LONDON -- Despite the Twitter gripes and badminton scandals and any other secondary silliness, the reality is that these Summer Games have lived up their expectations so far.
And many who had golden aspirations -- or had enormous expectations placed upon them -- have delivered. Michael Phelps his run his medal count to 21, and his 17 gold medals are just one behind the all-time record for total medals won by anyone not named Michael Phelps, who may possibly be revealed to have dolphins in his family tree any day now.
Gymnast Gabby Douglas became America's sweetheart with her scintillating gold-medal performance in the women's individual all-around, and while Needham's Aly Raisman just missed bronze herself, her performance here, whether qualifying for the all-around or anchoring the team gold, proved once and for all she's not an athlete to be underestimated.
Great stories. Great, great stories. And did we mention the ridiculous badminton scandal?
But now? Now, it might get even more compelling, so much so that NBC won't be required to edit any plot twists.
Track and field -- or "athletics,'' as the home team here elegantly refers to them -- began Friday, with medal events in the men's shot put and the women's 10,000 meters, as well as qualifying in the women's 100. There are 47 total events under the "athletics'' designation, but one is anticipated more than than all of the others, and it's the one that will be over the fastest.
No offense to Phelps and Ryan Lochte, but the marquee event of these Games is the men's 100 meters, featuring Beijing breakout star and world-record holder (9.58 seconds) Usain Bolt, his nemesis and countryman Yohan Blake, and another fellow Jamaican, veteran Asafa Powell. That's staggering amount of talent and enough genuine story lines to make a fascinating race between just three of them. But add Americans Tyson Gay and would-be redemption story Justin Gatlin to the field, and there is potential for a classic outcome no matter who gets to the tape first.
Bolt is as charismatic an athlete as there is here, and his confidence cannot be dented. So it may come as a surprise to him that he's not invincible. Blake, his training partner, beat him in both the 100 and 200 in the Jamaican Olympic trials, and Bolt has battled back and hamstring issues this year. With Gay, who owns a best of 9.69 in the 100 and desperately wants to shed his "second-fastest man alive" label, and Gatlin, returning at age 30 from a doping ban, there will be a fascinating narrative to be discussed and dissected no matter what the outcome.
There are plenty of other fascinating events and angles in track and field, of course. American speedster Alyson Felix's showdown with Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown in the 200-meters Wednesday will be must-see, and more immediately, Mo Farah will have the eyes and weight of a nation on him when he tries to win Great Britain's first gold medal in the 10,000 meters.
Athletes we already recognize by name and accomplishments will achieve even more, and some relatively unknowns will reveal their greatness with unexpected victories and feats. Four years ago, Bolt was already a star, but it took him precisely 9.58 seconds to rocket to an entirely different stratosphere. Barring disaster in Saturday's preliminary heats, he'll have some extraordinarily fast company alongside him during Sunday's final, with gold, bragging rights, and so much more less than 10 seconds away.
LONDON -- One of my favorite cool Carl Lewis facts -- and there are many, given that he is just one of four Olympians to win nine gold medals, dominated both sprints and the long jump, and was named the Sportsman of the Century by the International Olympic Committee -- is that he was drafted by both the NFL's Dallas Cowboys and the NBA's Chicago Bulls.
Neither was done with any seriousness in mind, though the Cowboys did like to convert track stars to receivers. But it's a quirky reminder of just how revered his overall athletic skills were during his heyday that began in 1979 and took him through the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.
I had a chance to chat with Lewis, who is in London in part to promote the Doha Goals Forum, Tuesday night. Coincidentally, the conversation with the 51-year-old Lewis took place a few moments after another living Olympic legend, Michael Phelps, won his record 19th medal. Here are a few of his thoughts:
1. There are few people who can relate to Michael Phelps's place in sport, but as a four-time Olympian with nine gold medals, you are on that short list. How does someone not only achieve at that level, but sustain everything that goes into it over multiple Olympics?
Lewis: "Well, one of the challenges is that you're going back over and over and over, and it's a big challenge to stay focused. That's why I want to give Michael a lot of credit, because this has not been the easiest Olympics for him, and he's pushed through. Missing the podium in his first race [the 400 Individual Medley] could have affected his mindset, and it didn't. He's been able to stay focused and he's been able to focus on coming here to run -- swim, rather -- seven events and I'm going to do seven events, and nothing that happened in another event distracted him at the next one. Of course you have to have talent, that goes without saying, but It takes almost unfathomable dedication to become an Olympian, let alone one who has accomplished what he has. I have the utmost respect and admiration for him."
2. You're in London in part on behalf of the Doha Goals Forum, which is touted as a platform for world leaders to advance social initiatives through sport. How does this relate to your own background and upbringing in relation to sports?
Lewis: "There are a number of ways. No. 1, my parents were teachers and coaches .I came up in a coaching family. And in the process of being coaches, they started the track club that I ran with. They started the club in 1970, they established the infrastructure, and built it up. I saw how it brought a whole community together. We had 300-400 kids every summer who were practicing and ultimately we had five people eventually make the Olympic team. With the Forum, we're talking about how to build sports and how to build a program, though it's obviously something on a much larger scale. It fit right in to what I grew up around."
3. You've said you don't plan to attend the track and field events here, but you are trying to fulfill a quest to see every Olympic sport in person at some point.
Lewis: "One of the things that happened when I was competing was that I never saw another sport. So I decided that I was going to pick a minimum of two sports every Olympics to go to, not to just watch them, but to learn them. In that process, let's see, I've seen team handball, volleyball, beach volleyball, badminton, rowing, table tennis, and tennis, which of course I knew. This time around, I want to do that for fencing and BMX. So it's just something I want to get to, to see all 32 sports, and take advantage of my chance to be here."
4. What's your favorite? Handball seems to be the one that is blowing up in popularity right now.
Lewis: "Every one is unique, and it's funny, because when I started to do it, I was like, 'Aw, I know I'm going to like this,' but I ended up really liking curling, which I never thought I would like, I liked short-track speedskating when I went in the winter. Ping-pong has its own story. And badminton was pretty amazing. I don't know how they do that so fast.''
5. People said that about you once, you know.
Lewis Still do. Laughs
Sheena Tosta (Chula Vista, Calif.) won the silver medal in the women's 400m hurdles, run Wednesday evening at the National Stadium. Her time of 53.70 was 1.06 behind Jamaica's Melaine Walker, who won in a world-record time of 52.64 seconds. Tasha Danvers of Great Britain won the bronze medal with a 53.84. Tiffany Ross-Williams (Orlando, Fla.) finished eighth with a 57.55 effort.
The confident young runner from Jamaica Usain Bolt won the 200 meters in world record time in 19.30. Unlike his finish in the 100 meters where he celebrated in the final 10 meters, Bolt ran hard the full race in a rout.
But the weird thing happened following the race, when American Wallace Spearman thought he had won the bronze medal. He was taking a victory lap with the American flag with Bolt.
He didn't find out he was disqualified for going into another lane until he was more than done with the victory lap.
The 2004 gold medalist in the event -- Shawn Crawford -- earned the bronze.
BEIJING- When Andrew Wheating stepped onto the track at the National Stadium tonight (local time), he just smiled in amazement. The 20-year-old never expected to be competing at the Olympics this early in his career. But when he finished his 800 meter preliminary heat in 1 minute 47.05 seconds and failed to advance to the semifinals, it wasn’t quite the ending he imagined to his first Olympic experience. Wheating placed 25th overall in the first qualifying round. The only American to reach the semifinals was Nick Symmonds, who won his heat in 1:46.01.
“I should have been able to react a little better," said Wheating. "The first quarter is usually pretty slow and I just wasn’t ready for it [to speed up],” said Wheating, “The heat went out slow and then they dropped the pace from like 53 [seconds per lap] to like 49 pace. It was a bit of a shock and hard to stay with. I let them creep forward and I had to catch them. When I finally caught them, they got away again. It’s a rookie mistake. Hopefully, I’ve learned my lesson and I won’t have to deal with it next time.”
Having just finished his sophomore year at the University of Oregon, Wheating could be a contender in the 800 at the 2012 London Olympics. Next time around, he will probably enter a few more races between the trials and the Olympics, so he will be sharper for the early rounds. He knows he still has a lot to learn about the sport and race experience helps. After all, he didn’t seriously pursue track until his senior year at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H. He has been rapidly rising through the ranks of US distance runners ever since, finishing second in the 800 at the US track and field trials in a personal best 1:45.03.
David Payne and David Oliver each qualified for the finals of the men's 110-meter hurdles.
Cuba's Dayron Robles, the favorite of the event, also qualified for the finals.
American Bernard Lagat, the reigning world champion, qualified for the finals of the men's 5000 meters.
Aksana Miankova, a tall, slender athlete from Belarus took the women's hammer throw with an Olympic record throw of 76.34 meters to capture the gold medal over Cuba's Yipsi Moreno (75.20) and China's Wenxiu Zhang (74.32).
American Nick Symmonds ran a 1:46.01 in the first round of the men's 800. He won his heat. The day's best time was turned in by Kenya's Wilfred Bungei with a mark of 1:44.90.
Angelo Taylor (Decatur, Ga.) led a 1-2-3 finish by the United States in the men's 400m hurdles Monday evening at the National Stadium. Taylor crossed the line with a personal-best 47.25 to claim the gold medal, followed by teammates Kerron Clement (Los Angeles, Calif.) with the silver in 47.98 and Bershawn Jackson (Raleigh, N.C.) with the bronze in 48.06. It was the first multiple-medal finish in the event for the U.S. since taking gold and bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and the first sweep in the event by the Americans since the 1960 Rome Olympic Games. The U.S. is the only country to sweep the medals in the event - 2008 is the fifth time it has been done.
Terrence Trammell a two-time Olympic silver medalist, was unable to finish heat five of the 100-meter hurdles Monday at the National Stadium in Beijing. According to USOC Medical Staff, Trammell suffered a moderate hamstring strain on his left leg. He was barely able to come out of the blocks, clearing the first hurdle and hobbling to a halt with the injury. The 100-meter hurdles was Trammell’s only event of the 2008 Olympic Games.
This knocks out two of the top contenders in the event as China's hope for the gold as 2004 gold medalist Liu Xiang is out with a hamstring injury.
“It was a freakish occurrence, such a freakish occurrence. All day yesterday I felt my hamstring twitch. It never cramped. I went and got treatment, and I hydrated very well. Today in warm-ups I didn’t feel bad at all. When it happened it was such a shock. It was the farthest thing from my mind. On my first run-through I felt good. I just needed to make an adjustment. Then on the second (run-through) it grabbed, and I felt it tightening up. I tried to see if I could just take the first hurdle, but I couldn’t. I felt like I was on the brink of something huge. I did everything I needed to do, and I couldn’t have done anything else. This is truly how it was supposed to be. This definitely answers my question about 2012 in London. You can guarantee I will be there. The only thing for the Davids (Oliver and Payne) to do now is to make the podium and shock the world.”
BEIJING-Tyson Gay failed to qualify for the men’s 100 meter dash final, finishing fifth in his semifinal heat with a time of 10.05 seconds. As a result, there will be no dream 100 final with Gay and Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell. What was hyped as a race to close to call now appears to favor Bolt, who won his semifinal in 9.85. And he still wasn’t anywhere close to pushing his body. Americans Water Dix (9.95) and Darvis Patton (10.03) both advanced to the final.
“I got tight a little bit because I was trying to make it to the finals,” said Gay, who started in lane 9. “I really couldn’t see anybody, then toward the end I saw everybody and I was like, ‘Dang.’ I tried to relax, but I think it was too late.”
Gay said his hamstring felt fine and did not affect his performance, though it did derail his training enough to make a difference. With time to train more and race once or twice before the Olympics, Gay figured there might have been a better result in the semifinal.
BEIJING-There was no suspense for the US entries in Round 1 of the women’s 100 meter dash late last night (ET). All three Americans easily advanced with Torri Edwards leading all qualifiers, clocking 11.26 seconds in the first heat. Muna Lee won Heat 3 in 11.33 and Lauryn Williams finished second in Heat 2 in 11.37. There may be no better runner than Williams when it comes to building momentum through qualifying rounds. She always rises to the occasion and, usually, the medal podium in major championship meets with multiple rounds.
“The rounds make a difference,” said Williams. “You work your kinks out, play it smart and go full force in the final.”
Meanwhile, Muna Lee’s coached asked her to take a slightly different approach running from Lane 8 in Round 1.
“It was hard being in the eighth, but, whatever, it doesn’t really matter what lane you’re in,” said Lee. “Coach just wanted me to go out and blast the beginning and it worked. If I had gone out too easy, it would have been hard to finish. I just wanted to get my body used to [going fast].”
Muna Lee should benefit from more experience than she had competing in the 200 at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
“I’m not as nervous as the last time, or as star struck,” said Lee. “Running all the rounds in college, that prepared me for this.”
In other qualifying heats, steeplechaser Anthony Famiglietti advanced to the final running a personal best 8:17.34 and the third fastest time of the day. Americans Josh McAdams (8:33.26) and Billy Nelson (8:36.66) failed to reach the final.
“There is always someone that goes down under the pressure,” said Famiglietti. “In Athens, that was me. This time, I got it out of my way and ran my personal best. I had more in the tank, but I just didn’t want to run the last few meters hard.”
In the first round of the women’s 400, Sanya Richards looked incredibly comfortable running 50.54, which was easily the fastest qualifying time to come out of the 400 heats. In fact, she looked like she might be ready to run 49. Fellow Americans Mary Wineberg qualified in 51.46 by finishing second in Heat 3 and Deedee Trotter qualified on time running 51.41 in the first heat.
“I felt pretty good,” said Richards. “I ran the first 200 well, which is what I wanted to do…I never care about time. I wanted to run as easy as possible. I thought I was right around 51 [seconds]. So, I was surprised to see 50. That’s great. [The next round] is going to be tough.”
In the women’s pole vault, there were some strange demands made during the warm-ups. Chinese officials limited the competitors to one jump at 13-feet-1-inch. Normally, pole vaulters take a handful of practice jumps at a height they choose. For US champion and gold medal contender Jennifer Stuczynski, a normal warm-up consists of five jumps at 15-feet-1-inch. Many of the pole vaulters were thrown off by the warm-up system dictated by the officials, and communication difficulties meant they could not clear up the issue in time.
“It wasn’t pretty, but that’s all it took,” said Stuczynski of the 4.50 meter (14.8 feet) jump that qualified her for the Final. “It started out in warm-ups. They had a strategic way they wanted to run it. It was a battle out there to get warmed up with one bar height and one jump.”
Stuczynski added that she will look at her performance in the qualifier on tape and decide what adjustments she needs to make for the finals to compete with world record holder Elena Isinbaeva. Just how good is Isinabaeva? She had no problem taking a nap before she jumped to qualify with the top mark of 4.60 meters (15.1 feet).
“I had to,” said Isinbaeva of the power nap. “Otherwise, there is nothing to do.”
Finally, while race walkers don’t get much attention, silver medalist in the men’s 20K Jefferson Perez caused a frenzy when he collapsed in the mixed zone. He was taken for medical attention and reappeared looking fine. American Kevin Eastler of Farmington, Maine finished 43 out of 51 in the 20K walk in 1:28.44.
Marblehead's Shalane Flanagan celebrates with the US flag after capturing the bronze in the 10,000 meters. (AP)
BEIJING -- When Marblehead’s Shalane Flanagan crossed the finish line in the women’s 10,000 earlier this morning (ET) at the National Stadium, she thought she won a bronze medal. She knew she had a new American record with a time of 30:22.22, but she wasn’t sure if she had captured third or fourth place. She needed a spectator to confirm it.
Once Flanagan got the word, she was overjoyed.
“I thought maybe I was third but I can’t celebrate until I really know,” said Flanagan. “I feel fortunate to have it all come together.”
To understand the historical accomplishment, you need to look back at past Olympic medal winners. In track races longer than 800 meters, Flanagan’s bronze medal is only the second US Olympic medal since 1984. That goes for men’s and women’s competition. The other medal was Lynn Jenning’s bronze in the 10,000 in 1992.
Shalane Flanagan (Marblehead, Mass.) won the bronze medal in the women's 10,000m run, competed Friday night in Beijing's National Stadium. Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia earned the gold medal with an Olympic record time of 29:54.66. Elvan Abeylegesse of Turkey claimed the silver in 29:56.34. Flanagan's time of 30:22.22 sets the American record. Americans Kara Goucher (Duluth, Minn.) placed 10th 30:55.16 and Amy Begley-Yoder (Beaverton, Ore.) was 26th in a time of 32:38.28.
BEIJING -- Trying to avoid reporters’ questions after the second round of the men’s 100, Tyson Gay hurdled over a three-and-a-half-foot high barrier in the media mixed zone. Not exactly what you expect from a sprinter returning from a hamstring strain. A representative from USA track and field chased after Gay and compelled him to make a few comments.
“I feel pretty good,” said Gay, after advancing to the men’s 100 semifinals tomorrow with a time of 10.09 seconds. “I felt pretty relaxed. I just wanted to make it through.”
Gay was actually the third fastest American qualifier in the second round. Darvis Patton led the US contingent, clocking 10.04. Walter Dix followed in 10.08. Patton’s fast time came in the fastest heat of the second round with Usain Bolt leading the way in 9.92.
Despite a typically awkward start, Bolt was clear of the field about 30 meters into the race. And he looked like he was jogging for the final 20 meters. If Bolt wasn’t the clear-cut favorite entering the race, he certainly earned that distinction after Round 2. He also seems ready to set another world record. Bolt’s countryman Asafa Powell finished his heat easily with a time of 10.02.
The Jamaicans walked through the media mixed zone together, but they did not talk to reporters. Instead, the two of them smiled and joked with each other, generally appearing laid-back and happy with their performances. Bolt walked through the mixed zone barefoot and it was hard not to notice that the spike plate on the bottom of his shoes was a shiny gold. Obviously, Puma designed the shoes that way on purpose. …
All three American entrants in the men’s 1,500 meter race made the semifinals. Gold-medal contender Bernard Lagat finished fourth in Heat 2 with a time of 3 minutes 41.98 second. It was the second-slowest of the semifinal qualifying times, which is just want Lagat planned.
“I just wanted to make sure that I have enough for the semifinal,” said Lagat. “I did what I wanted to do. Top five. Nothing crazy.”
Lopez Lomong qualified in 3:36.70 and Leonel Manzano finished in 3:36.67.
BEIJING -- At a press conference, Tyson Gay said he was fully recovered from a left hamstring strain suffered in July at the US track and field trials. He is ready to run in the men’s 100 meter competition, which starts with qualifying on Friday and continues with the finals on Saturday at the National Stadium. Gay is a medal favorite in the event along with Jamaicans Asafa Powell and Usain Bolt.
“The hamstring is 100 percent now,” said Gay. “It took about four weeks to get fully recovered and things like that. But I’ve basically been getting rehab on it and doing some light training during the process.”
When asked if had any concern about not racing since suffering the injury, Gay added: “Not at all. I’d rather be 100 percent coming to the Olympics, than risk being 85 percent and going to a meet just to see where I’m at. I had a few chances in practice to see where I’m at and that gave me a confidence booster.”
Dara Torres of the U.S. attends practice at the National Aquatics Centre. (Reuters)
Before departing for Beijing, the Globe's John Powers previewed the US Track & Field and Swimming teams, both of which are expected to bring home plenty of gold at the 2008 Games in Beijing.