The Olympic roundup …
BEIJING ó Now this is a road game.
Never will a U.S. men’s basketball team be farther from home, facing a team with a bigger home-court advantage than in tonight’s opener against China.
Despite the fact the U.S. players are icons here, all China’s yearning for its own place among the world’s powers attaches to its own basketball team, led by Yao Ming, its star of stars, the flag bearer in Friday’s opening ceremonies.
With basketball the No. 1 sport here, members of China’s men’s team have carried the flag at the last seven Olympics. The U.S. is just fortunate the game is in Wukesong Arena which holds 18,000, instead of the 90,000 they could have gotten if they had put it in the Bird’s Nest … or the 400,000 they might have gotten in an empty field like Woodstock.
This game is expected to ó unofficially ó blow away the TV record for the most-watched basketball game ever, the 1979 Magic Johnson-Larry Bird, Michigan State-Indiana State NCAA Finals.
That game got a 24.1 rating with 37.5 million viewers.
Women’s basketballDiana Taurasi scored 17 points and Sylvia Fowles added 16 points and 14 rebounds to send the U.S. women strolling past the Czech Republic 97-57 in front of President Bush and the U.S. men’s team. Next up for the Americans is host China.
VOLLEYBALLBEIJING ó A U.S. women’s volleyball team struck by tragedy just hours earlier beat Japan in an emotional Olympic opener marred by murder of an ex-player’s father.
The team took the court Saturday after learning of the stabbing death of Todd Bachman, father of former Olympian Elisabeth Bachman McCutcheon. He was attacked by a knife-wielding man at a popular tourist site in Beijing. Her mother was seriously injured by the attacker, who jumped to his death from a balcony of the Drum Tower, an ancient landmark the Americans were visiting.
The tragedy hung over the game, in which the Americans defeated Japan 3-1 (25-20, 20-25, 25-19, 25-21), in the first match of preliminary play at the Capital Indoor Stadium.
FENCINGBEIJING ó Mariel Zagunis stood proudly atop the podium, the first American to do so at these Olympics.
Zagunis won the first U.S. gold medal of the Beijing Games, leading an American sweep Saturday in women’s saber fencing. Zagunis took the gold with a 15-8 victory over Sada Jacobson, who won the silver. Becca Ward took the bronze.
SWIMMINGMichael Phelps set the Olympic 400 IM record while winning the gold in Athens, but his time in this qualifying race was 0.44 better. He was under his world-record pace after 150 meters of the four-stroke race, but eased off to save something for the final this morning. Teammate and top foe Ryan Lochte also advanced, yet only as the fourth-fastest.
GYMNASTICSThe U.S. men finished atop their qualifying group with a score good enough to clinch a spot in the team finals. Thus, even without injured stars Paul and Morgan Hamm, the Americans still have a shot at a medal ó even if it’s a slim one.
Being defending world champions, having won 21 straight international matches and getting a visit from President Bush did little for Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser. They lost their opening match to a Latvian team that was seeded 23rd in the 24-team field, which means they must win their next two pool-play matches to get into the medal round.
CYCLINGSamuel Sanchez of Spain emerged from a sprint to the finish in the shadow of the Great Wall to win the men’s road race, a trek that covered 152 miles in hazy air.EQUESTRIANBecky Holder rode her and her husband Tom’s Courageous Comet to fourth place after the first half of equestrian’s dressage phase of the eventing competition.
SAILINGAmerican sailor Zach Railey was second in an Olympic Finn race, first in a series of 11 that will determine the medals.
BOXINGAmerican middleweight boxer Shawn Estrada beat Ezequiel Maderna of Argentina.