Saturday, August 30, 2008

Spectacular Beijing Olympics Wrapup - Team Land, Sea and Air Awards

As tough as the competition was for individual Olympic Spectacle Awards, the choices for the team awards were even more difficult.

Best Men's Team Performance, Land Division - There are several great nominees - the Jamaican 4 x 100-meter relay team, which smashed the previous world record for the event by 0.3 seconds; the US "Redeem Team" basketball team, which rolled over the opposition by 30+ points per game before surviving a spirited gold-medal game effort by Spain; the US men's volleyball team, playing with almost the worst imaginable distraction after the father-in-law of coach Hugh McCutcheon was killed by a random attacker while sightseeing in Beijing before the games began; US beach volleyball gold medalists Todd "The Professor" Rogers and Phil "The Thin Beast" Dalhausser; and even the US 4 x 400-meter relay team, which shook off the ignominious baton-passing woes of their 100-meter teammates to win gold and set a world record. And the Spectacle goes to -- (sorry LeBron) -- the US volleyball team for beating a tall and powerful Russian team and the defending Olympic champion Brazilians in the last two rounds to claim the gold medal. Honorable mention to all the other nominees. Apologies to winners of sports such as soccer, team handball and field hockey, all of whom I'm sure are quite worthy, but of whose sports I saw very little.

Best Women's Team Performance, Land Division - My American citizenship (and LSU fandom, as recent Tiger stars Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles both contributed to the team's success) is probably showing here, but the US women's basketball team look like an obvious Spectacle winner in this category. They dominated the field with smothering defense and efficient offense to claim the US's fourth straight gold medal. Team captain Lisa Leslie won her fourth consecutive gold medal and ran her individual game record to 32-0. Honorable mention goes to the US beach volleyball team of Misty May-Trainor and Kerry Walsh, repeat gold medal winners and winners of 108 straight matches; to the 4 x 100-meter Jamaican relay team and to the Brazilian volleyball team, the latter despite my not seeing their gold-medal winning match against the US.

Best Men's Team Performance, Sea Division - I wish I were more up on Olympic boating. If so, you might see some nominations from rowing and yachting. But I watched a lot of swimming and water polo, and as such, my nominees for this award come from those competitions, starting with the US 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay team, who outtouched heavily-favored and cocky France by 0.08 seconds. The US 4 x 100-meter medley relay team also gets a nod for winning gold and smashing the previous world record by more than 2 seconds. Oh yeah, how about the US 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay team that broke 7 minutes, setting a world record and beating the second place Russians by more than 5 seconds. The US water polo team came close to sweeping this category, but fell to nominee Netherlands in the final. The Dutch water polo team eked into the medal round with a 1-2 record but beat world power Hungary and a hot American team in the medal games. No big surprise here - the winner of the Spectacle is the American 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay team for winning as an underdog in possibly the most exciting swimming relay race of all time. The individual swimmers were Michael Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale, Cullen Jones and 32-year-old Jason Lezak, who for all of the deserved hype about Phelps, may have swum the best single leg of any Olympic swimmer. Honorable mention to all the other nominees.

Best Women's Team Performance, Sea Division - This will definitely require some research, but I'm guessing that Australian swimmers will be in there somewhere. Indeed, Australian swimmers get the call with golds in the 4 x 100-meter medley relay and the 4 x 200-meter freestyle relay and a bronze in the 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay. Let's go with the world-recordsetting Australian 4 x 100-meter medley relay team - Emily Seebohm, Leisel Jones (pictured), Jessicah Schipper and Libby Trickett - for the Spectacle award.

Best Men's Team Performance, Land and Air Division - No doubt about this one as the dominating Chinese men's gymnastics takes the Spectacle award.

Best Women's Team Performance, Land and Air Division - Once again, Chinese gymnastics takes the Spectacle award as both men and women won the team gold medal. These girls not only overcame their competition, but also reports and rumors that some of their key athletes were younger than the minimum age to compete.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Spectacular Beijing Olympics Wrapup - Individual Land, Sea and Air Awards

Friday, 10 a.m. - We had company all week until yesterday midday, so I had a hard time finding quiet time to write a wrapup post on the Beijing Olympics. Then Barack Obama and Cubs-Phils got in the way last night. Here I am this morning.

The word that comes most easily to describe the Beijing Olympics is spectacular. Spectacular backdrops like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City; a spectacular opening ceremony (that I'm still waiting to see on DVD); spectacular venues like the Birds Nest and the Water Cube; spectacular gold-medal winning performances from American swimmer Michael Phelps, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, Kenyan marathoner Samuel Wanjiru, German weightlifer Matthias Steiner, 15-year-old Chinese diver Chen Ruolin, the US men's volleyball team and many others too numerous to mention in one sentence; even spectacular runnerup performances from the likes of 41-year-old silver-medal American swimmer Dara Torres (with an injured shoulder no less) and Togoan kayaker Benjamin Bougpeti (the country's first-ever Olympic medal winner). The NBC networks breadth of coverage was spectacular as well as five different networks provided thousands of hours of live and taped action from almost every imaginable sport. Even spectacular photography from my photofriend Alain at the Games and around the city.

Up to now I've been directing my commentary away from the new king of Frosted Flakes, eight-gold-medal-winner Michael Phelps, but now is the time to give him his due. Phelps gold medal haul at Beijing is of course the all-time record for one athlete in a single Games; as his career total of 14 gold medals at both Athens and Beijing. He set seven world records in eight races. He won by body-lengths; he won by the length of a fingernail. After watching the prelims, I correctly predicted that the 100-meter butterfly and Serbian challenger Cavic would be the biggest hurdle in Phelps' race to eight gold medals. Relay races brought out the best in other US swimmers, as veteran Jason Lezak swam the freestyle leg of his life to nip loudmouth French swimmer Alain Bernard at the wall in the 4 x 100-meter race. Phelps also shows what talent, coaching and desire can be accomplish. Identified at the tender age of 11, Phelps and his coach set their clocks to eight and twelve years ahead and went to work. Phelps says he's coming back for more at London in 2012. Maybe sometime after that they're be a real "Michael Phelps Award" for the best performance of each games by someone who necessarily won't be named Michael Phelps, until the second coming (of Michael Phelps that is.)

Now for some summary awards. In recognition of the spectacular nature of the Games, I call these awards "Spectacles". I'll start with some obvious categories and hope that more creative ones come to mind.

Best Individual Male Performance, Land Division - Jamaica's Usain "Lightning" Bolt gets the Spectacle for three gold medals (100 meters, 200 meters, and 4 x 100 meter relay) and three world records. Along the way he celebrated during the last 20 meters of his recordsetting 100 meter run; ran hard all the way to nip Michael Johnson's legendary record in the 200 meters; and led off a Jamaican relay team that crushed the previous world record by 0.3 seconds. Honorable mentions go to American decathlete Bryan Clay (who built up such a huge lead in the first nine events that he could finish dead last in the 1,500-meters and still win gold comfortably); Kenyan marathoner Samuel Wanjiru (who had the misfortune of having his name misspelled up until the time he received his gold medal); German superheavyweight weightlifter Matthias Steiner (who lifted more than 550 lb and a heavy heart (his wife having been killed in a 2007 car wreck); and Ethiopian long-distance runner Kenenisa Bekele, double gold-medal winner in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter runs.

Best Individual Female Performance, Land Division - I almost went with Nastia Liukin, but decided that most of her performances took place above the land. I'll create a new category to honor her. This Spectacle award goes to Romanian marathoner Constantina Tomescu Dita, who along with having one of the most challenging names for both broadcasters and bloggers, took the riskiest approach to the 26.2 mile race, racing out to a big lead early on and then hanging on for the victory. She actually hung on quite well, winning by more than 30 seconds. Honorable mention goes to Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser, who after winning the 100-meters also proved that braces can be beautiful with her post-victory smile. Let's go with American discus thrower Stephanie Brown-Trafton for the other honorable mention. She won America's first discus gold since 1932 with a first throw of more than 216 feet, a distance that stood up to all the competition.

Best Individual Male Performance, Sea Division - This spectacle of Spectacles of course goes to American swimming sensation Michael Phelps for all the reasons mentioned above. Honorable mention goes to American swimmer Jason Lezak, even though he swam in a relay, for his amazing final leg of the men's 4 x 100-meter relay and to Togoan Benjamin Bougpeti for his first-ever-for-his-country bronze medal in men's kayaking.

Best Individual Female Performance, Sea Division - The field for this award is more wide open than the men's side. I'll give the Spectacle to versatile American Natalie Coughlin, who won six medals to go along with five she won in Athens. Coughlin won the 100-meter backstroke, took silver in the 200-meter individual medley and bronze in the 100-meter freestyle. She added a silver and two bronzes in relays. Unlike "eat, sleep, swim" Phelps, Coughlin is known for believing that there is life outside of swimming, making her medal haul even more impressive. Honorable mentions go to Zimbabwean (I love that word, even though the country is a mess) Kirsty Coventry, for a similar performance to Coughlin, to Australian breaststroker Liesel Jones for two gold medals and a large dose of redemption after being shut out of gold at both Sydney and Athens, and notably to 41-year-old American freestyle specialist Dara Torres, who mixed modern training methods and motherhood to grab silver in both 50-meter freestyle (by an agonizing 0.01 second) and in the freestyle relay. Later it was discovered that Torres had been swimming with an injured shoulder. As of this writing, she's already undergone surgery.

Best Individual Male Performance, (Almost All) Air Division - Without doing a lot of research, I'll give the Spectacle to Chinese gymnast Li Xiaopeng, who won gold in the parallel bars and helped the Chinese men to team gold with terrific performances on both bars and the vault, both events that spend more time in the air than on the ground.

Best Individual Female Performance, (Almost All) Air Division - A lot of gymnasts did great work in the air, but none impressed me as much as Chinese trampolinist He Wenna, whose nearly perfect work won her and her country a gold medal, and my Spectacle in the (Almost All) Air Division.

Best Individual Male Performance, Air and Sea Division - In a diving competition dominated by the Chinese in every other event, Australian men's platform diver Matthew Mitcham shocked the world and prevented a Chinese sweep with the highest scoring platform dive in history, a back 2 1/2 somersault with 2 1/2 twists, carrying a 3.8 degree of difficulty. He performed it perfectly, scoring four 10s and earning 112.10 points. Going into the last round of dives Mitcham trailed Chinese diver Zhou Luxin by almost 40 points, but Luxin performed a mediocre dive to open the water for Mitcham's miracle. Adding to the pressure on Mitcham, he also competed as the Games' only openly gay athlete. For his perfect final dive and gold medal, Mitcham wins a Spectacle award. Honorable mention goes Chinese springboard diver He Chong, who nailed his last diver for 100.7 points to win the 3-meter springboard competition by 36 points.

Best Individual Female Performance, Air and Sea Division - There's no mystery about my choice here. 15-year-old diver Chen Ruolin of China performed a similarly perfect 100-point dive to overtake Canadian Emily Heymans for the women's 10-meter platform gold. The amazing grace, skill and courage demonstrated by the slim 15-year-old blew me away and blows a Spectacle Chen's way.

Best Individual Male Performance, Land and Air Division - Chinese all-around gymnast Yang Wei's gold-medal winning performance wasn't the most dramatic (he won by a wide margin) or memorable, but it wins the Spectacle by far in this category as Yang jumped, flipped, spun, twisted, swung, dismounted and several other action verbs on six different pieces of gymnastics apparatus (floor, still rings, pommel horse, vault, high bar and parallel bars), a unimaginable feat for me, who endured crippling fear of even one piece of such equipment in middle and high school. Honorable mentions are probably due all over the world of men's gymnastics but most memorable for this American non-gymnast were Alexander "Sasha" Artemev's bronze-medal saving performance on the pommel horse, and teammate Jonathan Horton all-around excellence and leadership that same night during the team competition in which the US captured the unexpected bronze.

Best Individual Female Performance, Land and Air Division - No surprise here either as divine American all-around gymnast Nastia Liukin takes the Spectacle award for her gold medal performances in that event. Combining the elegance of her Russian parents and athleticism of her American training, Liukin, out with injury as recently as 2007, was transcendent throughout the women's gymnastic competition. There I go again. Honorable mentions go to Liukin's teammate Shawn Johnson, second in the all-around and gold medalist on the balance beam, to Romania's Sandra Izbasa for a gold-medal winning floor exercise routine, and to Germany's Oksana Chusovitina, who took a silver medal in the vault, which she dedicated to her young son, in remission from leukemia. Many wonderful young Chinese gymnasts will have to wait for team awards for their recognition.

Best Individual Male Performance, Land and Sea Division - Not too many events cover both land and sea - the steeplechase to a small extent; the triathlon to a great extent. Germany's triathlete Jan Frodeno gets the Spectacle award for an amazing performance at the end of which he outsprinted (yes sprinted after 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike ride, and 10 km run) his opponents for the gold. Honorable mention goes to whomever finished this crazy race, in particular to Canada's Simon Whitfield, who also had a sprint left in him. Altogether, 50 of 55 triathletes who started the event finished.

Best Individual Female Performance, Land and Sea Division - Australia's Emma Snowsill is an easy choice for the Spectacle here as she dominated the women's triathlon, winning by more than one minute in a total time of less than two hours. No shortened triathlon for the women--their swim, bike and running distances were the same as for the men. Snowsill finished just 11 minutes off the time of the male winner. Honorable mention to the other 44 female finishers.

Back with team awards later.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Michael Phelps Award for Best Performance By Athlete Not Named Michael Phelps - Athlete Kobe and Coach McCutcheon Both Honored

USA's Kobe Bryant, right, goes to the basket as Spain's Rudy Fernandez defends during the men's gold medal basketball game at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2008. USA won 118-107. Associated Press © 2008

USA's head coach Hugh McCutcheon reacts as he leaves the court after his team defeated Brazil during their men's volleyball gold medal match at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2008. USA won the gold and Brazil took silver. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

Sunday, August 24 - Player Coach - In the last day of summer Olympic competition for four years, just a few Olympic competitions were held or televised on Sunday (US time) - men's basketball, men's water polo, and men's volleyball, so there are relatively few candidates for Sunday's final Michael Phelps Award of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

From the basketball court, the nominee is reigning NBA MVP Kobe Bryant, who led the final US push to basketball gold in a scintillating win over Spain. He finished the game with 20 points and 6 assists. Bryant has achieved one-name fame throughout the world - not many wouldn't know who "Kobe" is. Honorable mention on the hardwood goes to teammate Dwyane Wade, who scored 27 points and made four steals in another performance that left opposing players and coaches puzzling on the question of how to stop him.

From the pool, the gold medal-winning Hungarian team gets the nomination as a group, given that I don't know enough to single out a nominee from their 14-10 win over the upstart US team in the gold medal game. The Hungarians defended their 2004 gold medal and won their ninth overall gold in men's water polo, which is the country's national sport. Did you know that water polo got its name from its original form in which the players rode on floating contraptions meant to play the horse part in the polo-like competition? I'd have to do some research to understand how water polo could become a country's "national sport."

My volleyball nominee stretches the award title by being a coach rather than a player. American men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon began the experience of his life by having his father-in-law slain by a random assailant in Beijing on the day before competition started. His assistants coached the first three games before McCutcheon's wife told him to get back to courtside with his team. Perhaps inspired by their coach's courage, the US volleyballers overcame a succession of world class opponents, capped by a four-set victory over defending gold medalist Brazil in the gold medal game. McCutcheon is nominated for his courage, his team's performance, and to represent the efforts of thousands of coaches across the spectrum of Olympic competition.

With all due respect to Hungarian water polo, and in recognition of the deeply-held traditions associated with the Michael Phelps Award, Sunday's Michael Phelps Award is given in two parts - the athletic award to Kobe Bryant and a special coach's award to Hugh McCutcheon. Don't worry, whenever the award design is completed (I'm sorry to say that this process is still in the pre-conceptual phase as my award designer is currently dealing with 10th grade) and medallions are struck, each of Sunday's awardees will each get one of their own--none of this passing it back and forth, or a half-medallion each. They deserve it!
Saturday's Pantheon of Excellence - August 23 produced many Michael Phelps Award-worthy performances. Here are some photos. Please scroll to the bottom of this post to see who won.

Kenya's Sammy Wanjiru breaks the tape in the Olympic men's marathon at Beijing. (Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press)

Matthew Mitcham of Australia celebrates his gold medal in men's 10-meter platform diving (Photo credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia wins the gold medal in the 5000 meters, and plans to win several more. By H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY

USA players from left, Candace Parker, Lisa Leslie and DeLisha Milton-Jones pose with their medal after winning against Australia in women's basketball at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Saturday, Aug. 23, 2008. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

The gold-medal exploits of Michael Phelps have received plenty of attention. Michael himself, who seems like a pretty regular guy, has found time in his "eat, sleep, swim" schedule (eating takes a lot of time given that he eats 12,000 calories a day), to have six (make that eight, of course) gold medals draped around his neck.

I started keeping track of what I thought was the best Olympic performance day-by-day by an athlete not named Michael Phelps. (Design of Michael Phelps Award medallion pending)

Here's my list (the days are when I watched the performance rather than when it actually happened in Beijing; and winners are limited to performances that I actually saw).

Saturday - Do They Even Have a Beach? The initial Michael Phelps Award goes to the Latvian beach volleyball team (Martins Plavins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs) that upset American gold medal favorites Rogers and Dalhausser. How many people around the world were scrambling to figure out where Latvia is, and whether it even has a beach? (It does--Latvia sits on the Baltic Sea; one of three new Baltic countries along with Lithuania and Estonia, created after the breakup of the Soviet Union). Congratulations, Martins and Alexsandrs, on Saturday's Michael Phelps Award.

Sunday - Age Before Mouthy - In a swimming performance that may be the best of the 2008 games when it's all over, US 4 x 100-meter relay anchor Jason Lezak swam down Frenchman Alain Bernard (the eventual 100-meter singles' gold medalist) from more than a second behind to win gold for the American team, which included leadoff man Phelps. Before the race, Bernard had brashly predicted that the French team would "crush" the Americans. At 33 years old, Lezak was an unlikely hero candidate, given the younger age of most top swimmers, but with 25 meters to go he thought about his age and how many more chances he would have to be in this situation (none) and decided to go for it. The French team stood motionless and speechless after Lezak outtouched Bernard by less than 0.1 second in the most exciting swimming race I've ever seen. As well as getting his own gold medal, Lezak saved the "eight gold medal" drama for both Michael Phelps and NBC, both of whom, I imagine, are extremely appreciative. A hearty "Magnifique!" and Sunday's Michael Phelps Award to Jason Lezak.

Monday - Sit and Swing - American gymnast Alexander "Sasha" Artemev should get a share of the bronze medals given to at least two of his teammates in the men's team gymnastics competition. Standing a shaky third over the Germans with the insidious pommel horse to go, Artemev's teammates Kevin Tan and Raj Bashrav (sp?) responded to the pressure by sitting on and stepping off the horse respectively. A similar self-destructive performance by Artemev would cost the US their hard-earned bronze medal. Artemev, with his own history of error-filled performances, swung his way through a dazzling performance that had the Chinese crowd oohing and ahing (however that goes in Chinese) like a circus act. The high mark lifted the American team to the bronze medal level of the award podium, and Alexander "Sasha" Artemev to Monday's Michael Phelps Award.

Tuesday - Go Togo! I was thrilled to see NBC covering men's kayaking. It's exciting to watch the paddlers battle their way through the manmade raging rapids of the Olympic course. Miss a gate and you're penalized 50 seconds, and you miss the medal stand. I didn't know enough about kayaking to know who were the favorites, but I had to root for giant Benjamin Boukpeti of tiny Togo, a coastal African nation with zero Olympic medals to its credit in the country's history. Leading going into the last round, Boukpeti thrashed his way through all the gates in the proper direction fast enough to earn a bronze medal. His Serbian competitor, a prerace favorite it seems, missed a gate and broke his paddle in disgust. Boukpeti broke his paddle in joy when his time and standing was posted. Imagine what he would have done had he known he'd won Tuesday's Michael Phelps Award. Go Togo!

Wednesday - Since Lazarus From the Dead - When I started watching the women's volleyball game between China and Cuba on Wednesday morning, China had won the first two games and were leading 15-11 in the third game of what appeared to be a routine three-game sweep by the defending Olympic champions. After an effective timeout, the Cubans roared back to win the third game and force a fourth. The Cubans' trials weren't nearly over as China rallied to gain seven match points during the fourth game. Cuba repelled every Chinese attempt to end the match and eventually won the fourth game 32-30 on their first game point. In the fifth set tiebreaker to 15 points, the Chinese led as late as 11-10, but eventually walked off the court in shock as Cuba prevailed by 15-13. Cuba remains the only undefeated team in its pool of the women's volleyball competition. As an aside, women's volleyball should put to rest for once and all the myth that women can't jump. Perhaps the victorious Cuban women's volleyballers can get better apartments; for sure they win Wednesday's Michael Phelps Award.

Thursday - Living Legacy - As thrilled as the American men's gymnastics team were with their bronze medal, the American women seemed disappointed in their silver behind the Chinese team. The opportunity for redemption came soon, however, in the women's all-around competition. America's two top gymnasts, Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson, would have a second chance to beat their young (some say too young) Chinese rivals. The competition was tight all evening. The nature of gymnastics scoring makes it hard to sense who's really ahead until the end. And NBC's broadcasters were convinced that the American girls were getting jobbed on their marks by the panel of international judges. The girls didn't pay any attention. They kept jumping, spinning, twisting and landing. Liukin and Johnson were the last two performers on floor exercise. Liukin, who looks just like her American mother, but performs with the soul of her Russian father (also an Olympic gymnast from the 1980s) gave an essentially flawless performance and earned a mark of 15.525, comfortably enough to beat the top Chinese opponent, Yang Yilin. Johnson, the quintessential American female gymnast - short, young, athletic, spunky - needed an almost unattainable mark of 16.125 to beat Liukin. She gave her own version of a nearly flawless performance, but her mark of 15.525 fell short overall. She settled for silver, and rightfully so, as Liukin was the better performer all night--her long legs sailing elegantly around and over every piece of gymnastics equipment, every move a thing of both artistic and athletic beauty. Oh well--getting a little carried away there, but Nastia Liukin richly deserved both her gold medal and Thursday's Michael Phelps Award.

Friday - The Reign of Spain - Rafael Nadal, reigning French Open and Wimbledon tennis champion, survived a strong upset bid by Serbian Novak Djokovic to advance to the final of the men's tennis competition. The match, which included Djokovic winning the second set by a dominating 6-1 score, ended after Nadal returned back-to-back overheads by Djokovic. Determined to avoid a third return, Djokovic pummeled a "sitter" overhead from just behind the net. Unfortunately he pummeled the ball out of bounds to lose the match. Not that he needs more recognition, Rafael Nadal still gets Friday's Michael Phelps Award for returning the first two smashes, leading Djokovic to think that he had to go for broke on the third chance. Nadal will face Chilean Fernando Gonzalez in the final. Honorable mention goes to Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who ran a 100-meter dash heat in 9.92 seconds while sightseeing the last 40 meters. And, if his name weren't Michael Phelps, Michael Phelps would have gotten serious consideration for an 0.01 margin victory in the men's 100-meter butterfly for his seventh gold medal of the games.

Saturday - The Man in the Middle - What are the most important parts of a 100-meter sprint? The start, of course, the race isn't long enough to recover from a poor start. And the finish--the ability to outlean the competition could spell the difference in a race often decided by hundredths of a second. New to the race, Jamaican Usain Bolt doesn't start particularly well. In Saturday's 100-meter final, he threw out his arms and started looking around 20 meters from the finish. In between, the aptly-nicknamed "Lightning" Bolt pulled so far ahead of the seven-next-fastest men in the world that he was able to celebrate victory before he crossed the finish line. The result of this three-quarter effort--nothing less than a new world record of 9.69 seconds, beating his own mark of 9.72. For a seemingly effortless gold-medal-winning, world-recordsetting race, Usain "Lightning" Bolt wins Saturday's Michael Phelps Award.

Here's a link to an NPR news report on Bolt's win Bolt Bolts to Victory

Sunday - No Tiebreaker - Four fine candidates emerged from Sunday's Olympic competition. The Phelps Award judges have spent all day trying to pick a single winner. Here are the finalists 1) Romanian gymnast Sandra Izbasa, whose won the gold medal in the women's floor exercise with a 15.65 score on the last performance of the competition. Even US cheerleader/analysts Tim Daggett and Bela Karolyi were impressed - well Karolyi anyway; 2) Ethiopian runner Kenenisa Bekele, who won the 10,000-meter run for the second consecutive Olympics; 3) German gymnast Oksana Chusovitina, a 33-year-old mother who took silver in the women's vault (she dedicated her medal to her once leukemia-stricken son, the reason for her emigration from Russia to Germany) and 4) Shelly-Ann Fraser, 21-year-old Jamaican winner of the women's 100-meter dash, making the small Caribbean country home to both the "World's Fastest Man" and "World's Fastest Woman" (Fraser as well may have been the World's Happiest Woman during her post-race interview, both her eyes and mouthful of braces shining, while the joyous words flowed non-stop from her mouth.) Izbasa gave the best performance; Chusovitina has the best story. I don't have a tiebreaking procedure, so for Sunday I'm awarding two Michael Phelps Awards - to Sandra Izbasa and Oksana Chusovitina, with honorable mention to both Bekele and Fraser.

He Wenna of China competes in the Women's Trampoline Qualification at the National Indoor Stadium on Day 8 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 16, 2008 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images AsiaPac)

Monday - Jill In The Box - I wasn't that clear about the scoring system, but it was clear to me, the judges and all observers that He Wenna deserved the gold medal in women's trampoline. Her final performance demonstrated every element of excellence - consistent and high height, landings within the center square on the trampoline, and difficult tumbling with perfect form high above the trampoline. The crowd gasped like a small child playing with the world's greatest Jack-in-the-Box (or should I say Jill) as He bounced through her amazing performance. Both a gold medal and Monday's Michael Phelps Award to He Wenna. Honorable mention to Australian female triathlete Emma Snowsill for a dominating gold medal performance and to single-named Brazilian beach volleyballer Ricardo for knocking the second American team of Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal out of the tourney (not that I was rooting against them). I need to show Ricardo to my daughter, although at 6'7" and 240 lb, he might be a little too big for her tastes. Bronze, smooth and dark-tressed (a la Raffa Nadal), he'll surely rate as "pretty."

Matthias Steiner of Germany holds the gold medal he's dedicating to his late wife Susann, who died in a car accident in 2007, after winning the men's over 105 kg of the weightlifting competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2008. He dedicated his win to his wife Susann, who was killed in a car accident in 2007. (photo by AP)

Tuesday - Gentle Giant - Once an athletic powerhouse, particularly in the days of East Germany, Germany had had a quiet Olympics until Tuesday when Germans won two marquis events, the men's triathlon and the men's superheavyweight weightlifting. Known primarily as the training partner of countryman Dan Unger, Jan Frodeno surprised the triathlete field (and me) with a powerful 50-meter sprint after 1,500 meters of swimming, 4 -km of biking and 9,950 meters of running, perhaps the most overt display of physical fitness seen so far in these games, and enough for honorable mention for a Michael Phelps Award. Having gained almost 90 lb in the last year, superheavyweight weighlifter Matthius Steiner of Germany would never be mistaken for a fitness buff. But the extra weight helped carry him to a gold medal winning clean-and-jerk lift of 258 kg (almost 569 lb), just enough to beat his Russian challenger. When the "gut" (good) signal came from the judges, Steiner dropped the bar and came apart, his emotions spilling all over the lifting platform. At the medal ceremony we learned the reason, other than the thrill of winning gold. In 2007, Steiner's wife had been killed in a car accident. Devotion to lifting and pursuit of the gold medal kept him sane. On the medal stand Steiner displayed his gold medal in one hand and a photo of his wife in the other, and cried openly with both joy and sorrow. For a phenomenal performance and a touching story, Matthius Steiner wins Tuesday's Michael Phelps Award.

The United States team celebrates their win over Cuba in semifinals. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Wednesday - Best of the Best - A busy day of medical appointments and two nice meals out with my wife limited my Olympic intake. In fact, the best performance I saw happened early Thursday morning, when NBC televised a women's volleyball game between the US and Cuba. In pool play the Cubans whipped the US in three straight sets. The US turned the tables 180 degrees in the semifinal game, winning three straight sets of their own against a progressively more confused and error-prone Cuban team. Particularly impressive in a stellar all-around US performance was veteran Logan Tom, who won points with jump serves, kills, blocks and digs. In fact, Tom has been the US team's high scorer throughout the Olympic tournament, more than 100 total points on service aces, kills and stuff blocks. For being the best of the best on this night, US volleyball star Logan Tom wins Wednesday's Michael Phelps Award.

China's Chen Ruolin won both the women's 10-meter platform diving gold medal and Thursday's Michael Phelps Award. (Photo copyright © 2008 AFP)

Thursday - Perfection Under Pressure - What a pressure-packed moment for a 15-year-old. More than a billion countrymen looked for a gold medal after two straight Olympic upsets in women's platform diving competition; veteran competitor Emilie Heymans of Canada ripped dive after dive to hold a slight lead going into the final dive--China's Chen Ruolin's backward two-and-a-half somersault with one-and-a-half twists--a dive that garnered four 10-point marks and 100.3 points, by far the highest-scoring dive of the competition and enough to win the gold medal by about 10 points. Aware of the historical backdrop and Heyman's performance, Chen admitted a little nervousness, but called on her training and competitive experience to nail the final dive. For being better than she had to be in the most pressure packed situation imaginable, Chen Ruolin wins Thursday's Michael Phelps Award.

US gold medal-winning decathlete Bryan Clay collapses on the track after the 1,500-meter run (photo by dadlak off NBC's television coverage)

Friday - I'm So Tired - American decathlete Bryan Clay put one foot in front of the other often enough in the 1,500-meter run to hang onto a huge lead and win the gold medal in the men's decathlon. Clay led after the Day One events and finished in the top three of every other Day Two event - winning the discus. Clay finished dead last in his decathlon heat, but knew he had enough points to win the gold and the title of "World's Greatest Athlete" when he laid out flat on the track in exhaustion. What Clay may not have known was that his performances were also good enough for Friday's Michael Phelps Award. Honorable mention goes to Argentinian forward Luis Scola, whose 28 points and 11 rebounds kept Redeem Team USA a little worried in their men's semifinal basketball game.

Saturday - Abundance of Excellence - Let's review the candidates.

American men's basketball icon Kobe Bryant, who both played and willed his teammates to a 118-107 win over Spain in last quarter of the gold medal basketball game. This game was really played on Sunday (even in Central Time). We'll hold Bryant for tomorrow.

Kenyan marathoner Samuel Wansiru who won Kenya's first-ever gold medal by running the 26.2 mile course in an Olympic-record 2 hours 6 minutes 32 seconds (4:49 per mile pace) and made it look easy.

Australian diver Matthew Mitcham (just one year out of a career hiatus), who shocked the diving world, especially the Chinese looking for a diving sweep, with an all-time record 112-point (four 10s out of six marks) final dive to take gold in the men's 10-meter platform diving.

Ethiopian distance runner Kenenisa Bekele who added a gold medal in the 5,000-meter run to one he'd already won in the 10,000-meter race. Bekele also set an Olympic record.

American women's basketball star Lisa Leslie, representing both herself and the American team, both of which won their fourth consecutive gold medal. Leslie played on teams that amassed a 32-0 record in four Olympics. Women's basketball couldn't have a better ambassador.

It's hard to ignore any of these, but the next-to-last Michael Phelps Award goes to (drum roll) Samuel Wanjiru for a dominating performance in the marathon, one of the Games' premier events, a new Olympic record by almost 3 minutes in less-than-ideal hot and muggy conditions, and his country's first-ever Olympic gold medal in a race that Kenyans dominate elsewhere throughout the world.

Distinguished honorable mention to the three other very deserving candidates. I've included pictures of all the finalists in the gallery at the top of this report.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Beijing Olympics - Day Seventeen - "Whole Lotta Love" - US Men Upset Brazil To Win Volleyball Gold; Led Zep Guitarist Page Rocks Closing Ceremony

Singer Leona Lewis (2nd R) and guitarist Jimmy Page (1st R) perform on a bus during the eight-minute performance prepared by London, host city of the next summer Olympic Games in 2012, at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games closing ceremony held in the National Stadium, or the Bird's Nest, Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 24, 2008. (Xinhua/Guo Dayue)

7:20 p.m. - Closing ceremony, but dinner first. Dinner slightly delayed. Back to ceremony. I didn't see opening, so can't relate this. We start with drumming. Big drums suspended in air. Trampoline foot drummers.

Now awarding medals for men's marathon. Winner is identified as Samy Wanjiru. Hope they got it right. Have seen Samuel Wansiru and Sammy Wanjiru in print.

IOC Chairman Rogge draws games to a close. Rest of ceremony will be an invitation from London to the 2012 games.

It all starts with "God Save the Queen." Now Chinese children's chorus singing the Olympic Hymn. Olympic flag being lowered.

Mayor of Beijing and Mayor of London will pass the flag. Former Mayor of London Ken Livingston was pivotal to London acquiring the 2012 Games.

London's show features a red double-decker bus and people dressed in various street clothes. Now bus is morphing into a topiary stage for British pop singer Leona Lewis (thanks Kallie). Now Jimmy Page playing "Whole Lotta Love" while Lewis sings. Guitar solo. Becks kicks soccer ball to the Chinese volunteers on the floor.

Flame extinguished to sound of song sang at opening ceremony. Back to the Chinese. Human pyramid on "memory tower" at center of stadium. Looks like Olympic flame. 400 performers. Looks like an anthill to me. Fabric draped on outside. Climbers have formed into Olympic logo, which is revealed when fabric is pulled away. Now big fireworks.

Now the ever-popular "Beijing, Beijing" with a chorus of pop singers and players of traditional stringed instruments. Wish I knew the name.

Now fireworks all over Beijing. Now Michael Phelps in London on video. Phelps says he will swim for next four years. Red white and blue flyover salutes Phelps.

British and Chinese opera stars contribute the next song.

Now Shawn Johnson with her hair down. She is cute either way.

Oops, NBC Olympics went off the air while I checked out the Phillies and Dodgers on ESPN. We're all wondering how "Car Wars" came out. I may call Richards Honda and Royal Nissan to find out.

The whole Olympic experience was a blast, and well timed as I got to watch most of what I wanted to see, even though some events were at inconvenient time (read overnight or early a.m.). I'll post a summary and the final Michael Phelps Award winner tomorrow.

6:15 p.m. - Volleyball! US vs. Brazil in men's gold medal game. Sets are tied 1-all. US leads third set by 20-15. Ace by Brazil. 20-16. Stanley spikes. Stuff block by Brazil. 20-17. Timeout US. Brazil won first set by 5; US second by 3. Priddy blocks. 21-17. Brazil kill. 21-18. Middle set and kill. 21-19. US timeout. Serve long. 22-19. Spike long. 23-19. Rocket by Brazil past double block. 23-20. Priddy kills. 24-20. Four set points. Priddy serves long. 24-21. Second chance. Brazil serves long. 25-21. Two sets to one for US.

Stuff block by Brazil. 0-1. Brazil serves long. 1-1. Block OB by US. 1-2. Brazil blocks out. 2-2. Brazil kill off US and OB long. 2-3. Serve long. 3-3. Brazil kill from left. 3-4. US block. 4-4. Brazil kill from right. 4-5. Brazil kill off US block 4-6. Stanley kills. 5-6. Brazil kill from long left. 5-7. Short set and US middle kill. 6-7. Blocked out. 6-8. Technical timeout.

Now 7-9. Short set in middle. US kill. 8-9. Four hits on US. 8-10. Stanley kill. 9-10. Stuff block by Brazil. 9-11. Priddy kill. 10-11. Ball serves long. 10-12. Center kill by Lee. 11-12. Brazil stuff block. 11-13. Salmon kill from left. 12-13. Change of pace by Salmon works! 13-13. Rally US hits out. 13-14. Back set and kill by Priddy. 14-14. Salmon in net 14-15. Rally and Brazil kill. 14-16. Timeout.

Now 16-17 after Brazil serves long. Middle kill by Brazil. 16-18. Block by Brazil. 16-19. Looking tough. US timeout.

Trade service errors. 17-20. US stuff block by Lee. 18-20. Stuff block by Stanley. 19-20. Brazil timeout.

Priddy serves. Great dig. Directional kill by Stanley. 20-20. Huge rally. Brazil hits into net. 21-20 US! Four in a row. Four points from gold. Need another point on serve.

Brazil hits out. 22-20. US can sideout and win. US serves into net. 22-21. Strange-looking play. Block by Stanley US. 23-21. Brazil kill. 23-22. US kill. 24-22. Double gold medal point. Stanley serves. Brazil kills off block. 24-23. Gold medal point. Stanley kills. US wins gold medal. 25-23!

First US volleyball gold since 1992.

Millar carrying cute poster of his kid - My Dad is Max Millar. Wish I saw it better. Best outcome possible for Coach Hugh McCutcheon.

2:30 p.m. - Got back from airport and lunch in time for 4th quarter of men's water polo gold medal match. Hungary leads 12-9 with 5 minutes to go. US had the game tied at 8, but Hungary has moved ahead on power play goals and a goal with less than 1 second in the first half.

Now 13-9 with 4 minutes left. US shot hits crossbar. US retains possession. 3 minutes left. US power play. Shot deflected high. Hungary ball. Another goal by Hungary. 14-9. 2 minutes to go. Powerful second half performance. 10 different scorers. Save by Hungarian goalie. Still first US water polo medal since 1988. Water polo has been an Olympic team sport since 1900. Jessie Smith scores. 14-10. 1:20 left. Speedy. Hungary timeout.

Pro vs. amateur matchup. Game effort by US. Another Hungary power play. Over now. Shot and save. US possession. Car doors slamming in Budapest. Hungary wins gold medal in water polo. US gets silver.

Good offense beat good defense in this one - Hungary was scoring 12 goals a game, best in the tournament; US giving up only six; also tournament best.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Beijing Olympics - Day Sixteen/Seventeen - Fourth Straight Basketball Gold for US Gals; Redeem Gold for US Men

1:30 a.m. - This is really a Day 17 post, but I'll keep it here. I took a little nap during mountain biking (the coverage, not actual biking, which would be dangerous). I almost got up in time to bring you the start of the men's basketball gold medal game between the US and Spain. Spain is doing much better than in their 82-119 devastation at the hands of the US in pool play. The Spaniards lead 21-17 with 4-1/2 minutes left in the first quarter. Both LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are on the bench with two fouls. Navarro makes a free throw to extend Spain's lead to five, the largest US deficit of the tournament. Chris Paul gets a layup and gets fouled. The free throw closes the deficit to 22-20. Bosh blocks a shot. Gets fouled while shooting at the other end. So far Anthony has a couple of threes for the US. Bosh makes first. 83% from line. And second. Tied at 22. Great defense by Wade scrambles Spain offense. 24-second violation. Spain goes to zone. Lopez fouls Williams. His third. Position is short with Calderon out. Williams makes one. And another. US 24-22. Wade steal and dunk. 26-22. Long shot by Garbajosa. 26-25. Wade always bring energy and D to the game. Inside basket for US by Prince. 28-25. Garbajosa miss. US rebound. Rubio foul on Wade. Bad position. Wade to line. Makes one. Bosh tips in miss on second. 31-25. Marc Gasol makes inside shot. 31-27. Wade knocked to floor. Makes two. 33-27. 15 fouls called already. Nice inside move by Marc Gasol. 33-29. Prince makes middle jumper. 35-29. Lots of points so far. Whistle on US. Rubio makes two. 35-31 US. Wade drills three. 38-31. Wade steals and loses handle. End of first quarter. Great quarter by Wade.

I waited and searched all day for the women's volleyball gold medal game between the US and Brazil. Instead I saw a lot of track highlights from yesterday. Not sure where I went wrong. The game had to be on sometime. I think it was played early Saturday morning US time.

Looks like Bryant and James will be back for start of second quarter. Starting lineup back in for US. Offensive foul on Marc Gasol. Kobe makes three. 41-31. 4 of 5 for US behind three line. 12 of 16 overall. Howard pulls Pau Gasol down after losing him. Flagrant foul. Pau shoots two. Misses first. And second. Struggling from line throughout. Spain gets ball back. Long rebound comes out to Bryant for breakaway dunk. 43-31. US rebound. Bryant misses three. Bounces off backboard. Pau misses. Marc rebounds and makes. 43-33. Anthony makes three. 46-33. Steal by US. James headed downcourt. Fouled by Fernandez to prevent a dunk. James three off. Rudy Fernandez three for Spain. 46-36. Bryant stripped. Rubio fouled. Rubio makes two free throws. 46-38. Anthony drives into zone. Blocked. Kidd fouls Fernandez. No shots. Paul in for Kidd. Anthony foul. Wade in for Anthony. Kicked ball. Spain inbounds again. Pau Gasol move on Howard. Misses. US fastbreak with Kobe layup. 48-38. Pau follow 48-40. Paul misses layup. Howard called for push foul. Spain to line. Jimenez makes two. 48-42. Good Spain comeback. They were down 13. Back and forth with steals. James layup. Gets fouled. Misses free throw. 50-42. Wade steal and dunk. 52-42. Spain timeout.

Bosh rebounds miss. Wade hits three. He has 18. Playing in different universe. Reyes takes pass for layup. 55-44. Wade kicks to James for three. 58-44. Rudy F banks in a runner. 58-46. Bryant misses Bosh with inside pass. Good idea but bad execution. Fernandez drains long three. 58-49. Spain hanging in despite dealing with Wade. Prince in with 3 minutes left in half. Prince tips Bosh miss. 60-49. Mumbru fouled by Wade. Two shots. Makes both. 60-51. Spain foul. Wade makes three. 63-51. 21 for Wade. Made all seven field goals. Fernandez three. 63-54. Showtime between Wade and Fernandez. Paul makes a free throw. And another. 65-54. Nice inside passes. Layup for Reyes. 65-56. James has red, white and blue mouthguard. Bosh makes a free throw. Another. 67-56. Another Reyes layup. 67-58. Williams halfcourt violation. Holding on Prince. Fernandez makes two free throws. 67-60. Wade misses three. Navarro fouled on shot. Makes 1 of 2. Lane violation on Spain. Williams misses. Prince rebounds. Foul on Berni Rodriguez. Paul to line. Makes first. And second. 69-61. Spain turnover. Wade misses three at buzzer. Halftime.

Reyes makes first basket of second half. 69-63. Reyes air ball from close in. Jimenez fouls Bryant. Bryant air ball. No foul. James shot blocked. Fernandez misses. Anthony misses three. Howard rebounds and scores. 71-63. First field goal attempt for Howard. Reyes layup. 71-65. Travelling on Bryant. Three turnovers for US in 3rd quarter. Pau lefty hook. 71-67. Howard fouled on layup attempt. 48% from line for Howard. Barely scrapes the rim. Misses second. Tipped in by Anthony. Foul Marc Gasol. 73-67. Another miss. Bryant foul. His third. Navarro runner. 73-69. James misses. Spain rebounds. Miss on other end. US rebounds. Howard dunks. 75-69. Near turnover by Spain. Another Navarro runner. 75-71. US timeout. Spain shooting 60% from field.

Anthony misses three. Spain rebounds. Anthony steals. Gets layup. 77-71. Anthony hurt hand. Wade in for Anthony. Navarro misses three. Jimenez puts back. 77-73. Bryant misses. Travel on Rubio. Slipped. Paul and Wade in backcourt. Bryant to James for tough layup. Pau layup. James layup at other end. Fouled. Misses free throw. 81-75. Spain emerges from scramble. Great hustle by both teams. Wade blocks and fouls Marc Gasol. Misses first. Bosh in for Howard. Makes second. 81-76. Wade misses three against zone. US gets rebound. James passes inside to Bosh. Bosh fouled. Makes first. 82-76. Makes second. 83-76. Rebound by James. Ball fed into Wade inside. Gets fouled on shot. Makes first. First point of second half for Wade. Short. Bosh drops rebound. Paul rebounds Spain miss. Wade spins and makes. 86-76. Paul steals. Misses layup. Marc Gasol fouled. Before the shot. Would have been continuation in NBA. Navarro scores on drive. Bosh to Williams for jumper. 88-78. Steal by Williams. Offensive foul on drive. Alley opp to Pau. 88-80. Paul to Anthony for 3. 91-80. Navarro misses floater. Bosh rebounds. Wade slips. Travelling. 10 seconds left. Great drive and lefty layup by Navarro against Prince defense. 91-82 at end of three.

Navarro defended by Bryant. Williams misses. James fouls on rebound. His third. Tipped out by James. Navarro misses. Pau Gasol tips in rebound. 91-84. Bryant misses three. Alley oop to Gasol. 91-86. Anthony misses three. Fernandez makes three for Spain. 91-89. Crowd goes wild. Rooting for underdog in this one. 8 minutes left. Spain has the game they want. Timeout US.

Howard back in. Williams, James, Wade and Bryant. Tough drive by Bryant. 93-89. Foul on James. Four fouls. Steal. Bryant passes to Williams for three. 96-89. Huge basket. Wade fouls Jimenez. Third on Wade. Bryant to Howard for dunk. 98-89. Great work by Bryant. Fernandez left alone for 2nd three. 98-92. Kobe three. 101-92. Big run for Bryant. Howard near steal. OB to Spain. Paul for Williams. James saves rebound. James misses. Howard rebounds. James makes. 103-92. Fernandez dunks and fouled by Howard. 103-94. 21 for Fernandez. Makes free throw. 103-95. 5 minutes left. Long three by Bryant. Miss. Paul tips away pass for layup. Bryant blocks. US rebound. Howard misses layup. Fouled. First one off front rim. Make second. 104-95. Fernandez misses. Marc G rebound. Foul on Howard. Four on Howard. Two free throws for Pau Gasol. Bosh for Howard. Pau makes one 104-96. Another. 104-97. Paul misses three. Rudy rebounds. Paul makes while brother throws Bosh to floor. 104-99. 3 minutes left. Wade to Bryant. Makes three. Fouled. 107-99. Rudy Fernandez fouls out. Top scorer for Spain. Bryant makes free throw. 108-99. Navarro runner. 108-101. Bryant buzzer three. Miss. Jimenez three for Spain. 108-104. James to Wade for three. 111-104. Timeout Spain. Fabulous game.

Bosh, Wade, James, Bryant and Paul. 13 threes for US. Navarro fouled. Shoots two. Makes first. Misses second. Spain possession. Jimenez misses three. US rebounds. 1:20 left. Bryant runner. 113-105. Navarro miss. Bosh tips to Paul. 58 seconds. Navarro fouls Paul at 0:47. Makes first. 114-105. And second. 115-105. Kicked. Spain has ball with 41 seconds. Pau misses. Marc putback. 115-107. 33 seconds. Paul turns around rather than take ball to hoop. 26 seconds. Flagrant foul and technical foul on Rubio. Bryant to line for four free throws. Makes two. US timeout. 117-107. Kobe's 30th birthday yesterday. Big grin on Kobe. Coach K and Kobe hug. Coach K gets a small shower from a water bottle. Paul makes one free throw on personal. Misses second. 118-107. Bryant to bench. Spain steals and misses layup. Wade slips. Travel. USA chant from stands. James cheerleading. Spain dribbles out clock. US wins gold medal with 118-107 win over very game Spanish team. Bryant joins Phelps Award finalists. Props to Spain for a great, game effort. They couldn't have provided more worthy competition.

It's 3:28 a.m. in Baton Rouge. We need to leave the house at 8:15 a.m. Back to bed.

7:00 p.m. - Back to Beijing for the men's marathon, which is about 27 minutes old. Lots of Africans in the lead pack. Blistering pace by the leaders. Eight runners in lead pack, with Spaniard Martinez in the lead. Amazing to learn that no Kenyan has won Olympic gold in the marathon given that they've won countless Boston and New York Marathons.

Ethiopian Merga takes the lead at the 33 minute mark.

Now 40 minutes into marathon. Kenya Wansiru leading at 48 minutes. Seven in lead pack. Only 5 in lead pack at 55 minutes, including two Kenyans.

1:11 gone with five in lead pack. All from Africa. Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya (2) and Morocco.

The marathon dates back to ancient Greece. Its non-metric distance of 26 miles and 385 yards is the approximate distance from Marathon to Athens. Here's a Wikipedia link on the history of the marathon.

Same five runners in a pack at 1:16. Still the same at 1:21. Running in Mile 17. Pace is somewhere between 2:04 and 2:12 for the entire race. Lead pack stretching out a little at 1:25. Moroccan falling back a little. Now in mile 18 at 1:26. Ethiopia and Kenya running 1-2 with Ethiopian. Merga in front. Kenyan Wansiru almost even with him.

One question is how heat and humidity will affect Kenyan runner, used to running in cooler drier climes.

At 1:33 there are three together. Ethiopia, Kenya and Gharib from Morocco, who rallied back into the lead group.

At 1:35, Gharib falls back again. Merga and Wanjiru look like good candidates for medals.

At 1:39. Gharib catches up again. Pace is between 2:05 and 2:06, well below Olympic record of 2:09. Runners are past the 20-mile mark, aka "the wall". Analyst giving biochemistry lesson on "the wall."

Air temperature of 87 is way above normal for marathoners. Just reached 21 miles in 1:40:46.

Now at 1:46. Merga and Wanjiru in front of Gharib by a couple of seconds.

At 1:51, Wanjiru speeds up. Pulls ahead of Gharib in second. Merga dropped to third. Wanjiru should have better closing speed if he has anything left at the end.

Just two miles to go. Wanjiru running alone at 1:55. Gharib 13 seconds behind. Wanjiru has looked the best the whole way. Just turned on the road to the Birdsnest. Gharib holding second. Now at 1:58. Now at 2:00. Wanjiru's next goal is to break world record. Won't quite do it today, but probably will break Olympic record. Wanjiru looks a little more stressed, but he has run 25 miles. Lead is 19 seconds and growing. Birdsnest on Wanjiru's right. Lapping the rest of the field. Third place is more than 2 minutes behind. "Light frame and big engine." Nice turn of phrase. Makes me think of my daughter's question last night--do they have Olympic NASCAR? Making U-turn toward the stadium. Now making left turn into tunnel. Now in the tunnel. 2:04.30. Being led by a VW SUV. He emerges to the roar of the crowd. Circling the track. 2:05. Waving to crowd. Still moving beautifully. Samuel Wanjiru of Kenya. Now 2:06. Heading around last turn. 100 meters left. 2:06.32. Gold medal and new Olympic record. By almost three minutes. Gharib of Morocco gets silver in 2:07.15. Two minutes better than previous Olympic record. Ethiopians Merga and Kabiti are next. Merga leading, but Kebede running faster. Looks like Merga is OK, Kebede exhausted too. I don't know. Gap tightening. Kebede gets him easily. Merga can't finish running--almost walking. He had a kick. Merga had nothing. 2:10.01 for Kebede. Merga fourth, just barely walking. Official leads Merga off the track. Two Americans on track. Ritzenheim finishes in 2:11.59 in ninth place. Ryan Hall next in 10th. 2:12.32. Smiling winner Samuel Wanjuri enjoys the moment.

Men's platform diving. I watched some of this last night. Will be cool to see the winning dive.

Mitcham of Australia closes on China's Zhou on the second dive. Got four 10s and almost 98 points.

Third dive. 14-year-old Brit is European champ. His dive drew sevens and eights. Finchum gets sixes and sevens. American Boudia gets 75. Zhou of China gets 96+. All 9s and 9.5. He's the leader. Huo gets 91. Guerro of Cuba in second.

Boudia gets 81 on next dive. Zhou a little short. Flat feet while spinning. 92 points. Still in the lead. Mitcham. Awesome dive. 92 points. In 2nd place. Huo next. Overrotated a little. Big splash. 86 points puts him in 2nd by 5. Zhou ahead 20 in lead.

Boudia stuck on 75. Russian Gelparin. Great drive. 93.5. Zhou next. Fabulous entry. Analysts says no jump off platform. Judges like it. 93 points. Mitcham next. Great armstand dive and entry. 86 points from 9s. Now in second. 33 points behind Zhou. Galperin is third. One dive left.

Nice last dive by Finchem. 85 points. In 10th place. Huge dive. 3.8 difficulty. Came up short. Big splat and splash. Just 44 points. 7th place. Gelparin did great. 103 points. Got one 10 and one 8.5. Now Zhou. 3.4 dive. Little splash, but not straight entry. Bent knees on entry. Just 75 points. Opens door for Mitcham and Hou. 3.8 difficulty for Mitcham. Awesome dive. No splash. Straight in. Gets 112 points. 4 x 10s. New leader. Clinched gold. Can't be caught. Shock for Zhou and Chinese faithful. Hou dives next. Feet bent. Big splash. Might be out of medals. 86 points. Finishes fourth. Amazing final dive for Mitcham. The equal of Chen's dive in female competition. Matthew Mitcham of Australia wins gold medal.

Lots of candidates for Saturday Phelps Award - US women's basketball, Samuel Wanjiru, and Matthew Mitcham so far.
Interesting note on Samuel Wanjiru. Please note how his name spelling changed from Wansiru. Was spelled wrong in program. He informed everyone after he won the gold medal.

Womens 4 x 400-meter relay. Wide-open event. Sanya Richards anchors US team. In order from inside to outside are Nigeria, Germany, US (wearing red in honor of China), Russia, Cuba, Jamaica, Belarus, and Great Britain. Jamaica leads in second leg. Allyson Felix moves into lead. Monique Henderson next for US. 48.7 for Felix. Russia second. Jamaica third. Russia and Jamaica closing. Russia takes lead. Russia and US. Richards closing. Jamaica third. Sanya Richards runs down the Russian in the home stretch. Great stretch run for Richards. US wins in 3:18.54, by 0.28 seconds. Redemption for Richards, who lost the 400-meter individual race, finishing in third.

US is heavy favorite in men's 4 x 400-meter relay, particularly given that they took top three spots in individual race. Merritt runs leadoff. Wariner runs anchor. David Neville and 400-meter hurdle champion Angelo Taylor are the other two legs.

Australia, Poland, Russia, Bahamas, Great Britain, US, Belgium, Jamaica - inside to out. US has top ten times all-time. Merritt gets lead for US. Taylor running now. 44.00 for Merritt. US leads Belgium, then Bahamas. Neville running. Belgium still in second. Neville way ahead. 43.9 for Taylor. Wariner far in front. 44.1 for Neville. Wariner has anchored since Michael Johnson retired. Bahamas second. 2:55.39 is gold medal winning time for US. Bahamas second and Russia third. Olympic record. 43.2 for Wariner. Won by more than 2 seconds.

Men's 800-meter final. None from US. Lots of Africans along with Gary Reed of Canada. Some of the favorites didn't survive semifinals. Two Kenyans and two Algerians. Kenya and Sudan leading the way. Other Kenyan gets third. Reed can only close to fourth. Got too far behind. Will some names. Wilfred Bungie of Kenya gets gold, Ismail of Sudan, Yego of Kenya win silver and bronze respectively. Winning time 1:44.65.

Women's 1,500-meter final. American Shannon Rowbury is in the field. Smart girl. Two degrees from Duke. Jamal from Bahrain is heavy favorite. Other runners from Ukraine, Great Britain, Spain, Russia, Kenya, Morocco (2). No American woman has won a medal in this race since it was added to the Olympics in 1972. Jamal fourth after first lap. Rowbury fifth. Pack is tight after two laps. Standings unchanged. Jamal in front with a lap to go. Rowbury fourth. Field stretching out with Jamal in lead. Lagat of Kenya takes lead. Jamal second. Two woman race. Nancy Lagat wins gold easily in 4:00.23. Jamal fades badly. Ukraine gets silver and bronze. Rowbury finishes seventh.

Women's high jump. Vlasic from Croatia clears 6'7". Chaunte Howard third attempt. No good. Out of competition. Four jumpers at this height. Vlasic favored.

Men's 5,000-meter final - Bernard Lagat in this race for US. Underperformed in 1,500-meters. Didn't make the final. Has won medals for Kenya in previous Olympics. Kenenisa Bekele has to be the favorite. won the 10,000 meters. His brother Tariku is also in the final. Slow jog through one lap. Lagat thinks that Kenyans and Ethiopians will work together to keep him (an expatriated Kenyan) off the medal stand.

Back to women's high jump. Russian clears 6'8". Other Russian is out. Vlasic misses 6'8-3/4. Tia Hellebaut makes it and wins gold for Belgium. Favored Vlasic wins silver.

Back to 5,000 meters. Lagat dropping back at 10:20 mark. Now in fifth. Bekele leading. Four in front group. No medal for Lagat. Bekele and two Kenyans battling with two laps to go. 12:03 with one lap to go. Now just Kipchoge chasing. Kenenisa Bekele running away with it. 12:57.82. New Olympic record and gold medal. Kenyans are second and third. Lagat finishes ninth in 13:27. Bekele ran last mile of race in 3:57. Fabulous performance. Add Bekele to Phelps Award finalists.

Lisa Leslie(L) of the United States shoots the ball in a 92-65 win over Australia in the women's gold medal basketball game. The win was the American team's fourth straight gold medal. Leslie has been a member of all four teams. (Photo credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

8:25 a.m. - What a fantastic finish in the baseball gold medal game between Cuba and South Korea. Undefeated in Olympic play coming into the game, the Koreans held a slim 3-2 lead as defending gold medalist and world baseball power Cuba came to bat in the bottom of the ninth. Somewhat remarkably, the Korean manager left his starting pitcher in the game. He gave up a clean single to the first hitter. Cuba's third place hitter laid down a perfect bunt to move the potential tying run to second. Their next hitter walked on some very close pitches that the announcers said would have been called strikes earlier in the game. Cuba's next hitter, the best in the tournament, also walked on a very close 3-2 pitch. I thought the pitch was low and outside, but the Korean catcher didn't, enough so to argue with the umpire and get thrown out of the game. At this point, the Korean manager had to replace his catcher. He took the opportunity to bring in a new pitcher too. A couple pitches later, Cuba's next hitter grounded a ball to the Korean shortstop, who started a game-ending gold-medal-winning double play.

The next event is the men's water polo semifinal between the US and Serbia. So far, the underdog Americans are hanging in with the powerful Serbians. Actually they're doing a little better than that with a 3-2 lead in the first period after two straight power play goals.

The news from water polo keeps getting better. Fueled by power play goals, the US has built a 7-4 lead in the third quarter. No one expects the Serbs to drown quietly, so the rest of this match should be nervewracking. The winner of this match will play Hungary in the gold medal game. Exclusion foul on US results in almost immediate Serbian goal. 7-5.

US shot skips over the cage. Serbian lob shot saved by US goalie Merrill Moses. Turnover by Serbia. Serbia steals. One minute left in 3rd quarter.

Dilemma. Women's gold-medal basketball started at nine. Headed there. Will check back on water polo during timeouts.

Australia is US opponent. They lead 13-12 in first quarter. Lawson ties game with a free throw. US leads 14-13. First lead of game. Long shot by Australia rebounded by Fowles. Lawson two. 16-13. Aussie shot from side. 16-15. Fowles loose underneath for layup. 18-15. Back to water polo.

Score still 7-5 with 7-1/2 minutes left. Shot clock violation by US. 7 minutes left. Exclusion foul on US. Shot hits crossbar. Another save by Moses. Power play over. Six minutes left. Offensive foul on US. Elbowing by US. Player ejection and short power play. Serbia timeout. Back to basketball.

Augustus at line. Makes first. Pride of Baton Rouge. #8 on Australia is a big woman. Makes second. 22-15 US. Drive and miss by Australia. Aussies with 5 seconds to shoot. Air ball. End of quarter. Aussies 4-17 in quarter.
Water polo.

Serbia shoots wide. 5-1/2 minutes left. US power play. Save by Serbia. 5 minutes left. Power play. Shot hits upright. Just missed. 4 minutes left. Center pass and US goal! 8-5. Goalie touched it but didn't get enough. Third goal for US star Tony Acevedo. Basketball.

Now 25-15 US. Australia scores on third shot. 25-17. Pretty move by Parker. 27-17. Bad pass by Aussies. Turnover and fast break for US. Layup by Catchings. 29-17.
Back to water polo.

Another US goal! 9-5. 3:18 left. Tough job for Serbia. Steal by US. Hungary has won last two water polo golds. Water polo their national sport. 2:32 left. Back to basketball.

Wow 32-17. Was 12-13 when I tuned in. That's a 20-4 US run. Aussie miss. Two from US on rebound. Aussies 5-28 from field. Pondexter scores
. 34-17. WP.

US scores again! 10-5. Shot from left side. No hope for Serbia now. 2:25 left. US 11th and 9th in last two world championships. Serbs very glum. Offensive foul on Serbia. US foul. 1:55 left. Serbia power play. Save by Moses. His 15th. US possession. 1:20 left. Empty possession. 1 minute left in game. Serbia power play. Two more Moses saves. Candidate for Saturday Phelps Award. Counting down from 8. That's it! US wins 10-5. Will play Hungary in the gold medal match.

Aussie at line. Lauren Jackson. Looks like a model. Makes one of two. US turnover on inbounds play. 38-25 US. Miss and US rebound. Fowles hit jumper off Thompson assist. 40-25. Snell for Aussie three. 40-28. Augustus misses. Aussie misses. Fowles to Seimone. 42-28. Aussies shooting 24% from field.

Fowles fouls Jackson. Parker in for Fowles. Jackson makes two shots. 42-30. Catchings misses. Lawson rebounds Aussie miss. Pulls up and makes jumper. 44-30. US shooting 62%. Air ball. Shot clock violation. Parker goes down hard. Stays in game. Lawson three. 47-30. 11 for Lawson. Aussies miss three at buzzer.

Back to the hardwood for the second half. US field goal and Aussie free throw makes it 49-31. Taurasi fouled on a drive. Makes two free throws. Jackson layup. 51-33. Thompson just misses a three. Putback by Aussie. 51-35. Leslie turnover. Short with three. Jackson rebounds and scores. Leslie fouls. US getting hurt on boards. US calls time. 51-37. To the dishwasher!

Back. Jackson sinks three to pull Aussie within 12 at 59-47. Thompson fouled on shot. She'll shoot two. Makes both 61-47. Catchings layup off steal. 63-47. Nice dribble move but miss. Fourth foul on Leslie. Taurasi already has four fouls. Fowles in. Not much drop off there. Forced shot. Lawson rebounds. Fowles to the line. Misses first. Makes second. 64-47. Foul on Lawson. Summerton to line for Australia. Makes one of three after extra shot for violation. Outlet to Parker. Fouled while shooting. Makes one. 65-48. Australia to line. Misses first. Makes second. Back in a few.

US putting Australia away with defense and transition baskets. Score now 77-56. Leslie fouls out, but rejects the shot. Fowles back in. Might be Leslie's last hurrah as Olympic basketballer. Will win four consecutive gold medals. Pass a little hot. US turnover. Jackson three. 77-61. 6 minutes left. Pretty runner across lane by Fowles. 79-61. Aussie miss and rebound. Air ball on drive. Uncontested layup by Fowles. 81-61. Jackson followup misses. Australia shooting 26%. Good hustle by Fowles after two misses. Taurasi three. 84-61. 4 minutes left. Taurasi fouls out. Catchings subs. Fowles rejects. Another Aussie miss. US foul on rebound. Short shot. 3 minutes. Aussie reach in foul. Smith misses three. Another Jackson miss. Held ball. Aussies possession. Finally a make. 2 minutes left. 19 years on USA basketball for Lisa Leslie. Jackson fouls out. 20 points. Parker at line. Makes one. 85-63. Players on floor. Foul on Australia. Catchings layup. 87-63. Makes free throw. 88-63. Largest margin. Aussie make. 88-65. Lawson bank shot. What a game for her. 90-65. 1 minute. Parker converts on drive. 92-65. One last miss for Australia. Parker couldn't decide whether to layup or dunk and missed at buzzer. US 92 Australia 65. Total domination of world's second best team by world's best team. Lisa Leslie never lost an Olympic basketball game. Team candidate for Saturday's Phelps Award.

Post-game notes. As a come-lately women's basketball fan, I enjoy watching the youngsters - Fowles, Augustus, Parker and Pondexter, moreso than vets like Leslie, Thompson and Bird. Still they were all great.

My favorite Olympic commercial is from all companies, Nike, because I get to watch some of Marvin Gaye's amazing rendition of the National Anthem, maybe the best ever by this legendary singer.

Germany beats Spain 1-0 to win men's field hockey gold. I watched the last two minutes.

Interesting moment in taekwondo. Defeated and upset Cuban kicked the referee in the head, violating as Jim Lampley described it, the first rule of taekwondo, never kick the referee in the head.

From field hockey we went to boxing and now synchronized swimming. The former hasn't been the same since Howard Cosell stopped covering it many years ago. As much as I disliked Howard as a football and especially baseball announcer, he knew boxing and supported Muhammad Ali back in the '60s.

Synchronized swimming seems to slip over the boundary between art and sport onto the art side. The women's volleyball final is later today. I'll be back for that.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Beijing Olympics - Day Fifteen - US and Spain Advance to Men's Basketball Final

8:00 a.m. - We open with a men's semifinal basketball game between Spain and Lithuania. The score is tied at 42 as the second half begins. US vs. Argentina comes on next. A great morning. Lithuania might have Zyvidas Ilgauskas from the Cavaliers, but I don't see him on the floor. They do have a lot of tall guys.

Now Lithuania is up 54-51 with 3-1/2 minutes left in third quarter. Time to empty the dishwasher.

Very competitive game. Pao Gasol makes free throw to tie game at 62. With 1 second left in 3rd quarter, Lithuania has a chance at a 4-point play--3-pointer and free throw. He makes it. Half-court heave long. 66-62 Lithuania.

Spain back within one. 67-66. Rubio lobs to Gasol. Basket and foul shot. 69-68 Lithuania. Makes free throw. Tied at 69. Easy layup 71-69 Lithuania. Back to kitchen.

Good run for Spain. Now up 79-74 with just 3-1/2 minutes left in the game. Now 81-74 Spain. Big three for Lithuania. 81-77. Fifth straight semifinal appearance for Lithuania. Three bronzes to show for them. Over the back foul. Still 81-77. Spain to line. Jimenez makes two. 83-77. Good defense and steal by Spain. 2 minutes left. 18th Lithuania turnover. Rebound. Foul Spain. Bad idea. Stops the clock. Best tournament for Spain since 1984. Two free throws. 83-79. Foul Lithuania. Gasol misses. Makes second. 84-79. Rebound Spain then turnover. Drive and score. 84-81. One minute left. Foul Lithuania. Fernandez makes first. 85-81. Makes another. 86-81. Two misses by Lithuania. 30 seconds left. Finally a foul. Too long to wait. Missed on first. Lopez shooting. Makes second 87-81. Lithuania makes a basket. Two free throws for Lopez. 3-pointer for Lithuania. 89-86. Jimenez at line. Makes. 6-6 for game. Makes second. 91-86. Lithuania misses long shot. Spain wins 91-86. Will play US/Argentina winner for gold.

Now watching Brazil-Italy men's volleyball while waiting for second basketball semifinal. Brazil leads two sets to one and 13-8 in the fourth. Announcers puzzled why Italian coach plays ineffective and injured players while more productive players sit. Now 13-9. Brazil hits into net. 13-10. Brazil hits long. 13-11. Timeout Brazil.

Italy hits OB. 14-11. Italy kill. 14-12. Italy overachieving in tournament. Ranked 10th coming in. Italy hits well out. 15-12. Italy scores on quick set. 15-13. Returned in kind by Brazil. 16-13. Big kill by Italy. 16-14. Brazil kill. 17-14. Analyst says Italian press should "crucify" the Italian coach. "Appalling decisions". 18-15. Serve into net by Brazil. 18-16. Stuff block by Italy 18-17. Italy serves long. 19-17. Huge hit by Italy. 19-18. Brazil kill 20-18. Injured player Fei can't respond to ball. Fei kills. 20-19. Offense/defense subs by Brazil. Stuff block Brazil. 21-19. No hope for that swing. Overpass by Italy. 22-19. Brazil serves long 22-20. Brazil kill. 23-20. Can sideout their way to the match. Good kill by Italy. 23-21. Brazil kill. 24-21. Match point. Stuff block Italy. 24-22. Italy survives one match point. Kill from backline. Touched on the block. 25-22. Brazil wins match 3-1 and goes to gold medal game.

Next is long awaited men's basketball match between US and Argentina. US looking for revenge against Argentina, who beat them in 2004 semifinal.

But first, the decathlon. Women do the heptathlon, which is already complete. US champion Bryan Clay has the lead after one day. 100-meter hurdles is first event of the day; sixth of the competition. Amazing athletes. What a variety of skills they have to display--sprinting, hurdling, distance-running (1,500 meters - the last event), pole vault, high jump, long jump, shot put, discus and javelin. Clay wins his heat in 13.93 seconds despite hitting about six hurdles. Clay OK with his performance. Four more events. Clay wants to "get this over" to go home to wife and kid. Clay still leads. American Trey Hardee is in third place. Clay is very low key. Czech Roman Szebrle is world record holder. Throws discus about 149 feet. Clay has great 176 foot throw. Krauchanka of Belarus is second in competition. Hardee way off his best - only 142 feet. Clay wins discus. Overall lead stretches to almost 300 points.

Now basketball. Dwayne Wade played on losing teams at 2004 Olympics and 2006 World Championships. Oberto and Ginobili lead Argentina. US wins tip. Putback by Kobe. 2-0. Manu misses three. Anthony misses. Argentina turnover. Anthony misses. Howard rebounds. Gets fouled. Makes first free throw. 3-0. Misses second. Manu scores on inbounds play. 3-2. Manu steps. Turnover. Jason Kidd turnover. Howard blocks. Delfino misses 3. James misses three. Howard tips rebound out. Bryant non-shooting foul. Bryant guarding Manu. Now Kidd takes him. Scola hook. 3-4. Kidd scores. 5-4. Fifth basket in five shots for Kidd in the tournament. Argentina turnover. Kidd misses. Kidd fouls Manu. Great move by Manu. Misses layup. James to the hoop. 7-4. Offensive foul on Manu. Wade in for Kidd. Paul and Bosh also in. Pretty move by Bryant. Makes layup. 9-4. James also in. Kobe drills three. 12-4. Ginobili misses. Foul on Ginobili. His second. Moving screen on James. 4 minutes left in first quarter. Only 4 points for Argentina. Wade steals. Kobe misses three. Bosh rebounds and gets fouled. Ginobili down hurt. Not looking good. Going to the bench. Bosh makes two. Andres Nocioni in for Argentina. 14-4. Turnover and Bryant dunk. 16-4. Sixth turnover. Oberto misses. Great pass from James to Paul. Three falls. 19-4. Turnover and dunk for Paul. 21-4. Two misses for Argentina. James fouled. Goes to line. Nocioni grabbed James around the waist. James still got ball to the rim. 18 straight for US. Timeout.

James misses first free throw. Misses second. Prigioni makes three. 21-7. Deron Williams answers. 24-7. Argentina in zone defense. Wade fouls Nocioni. Nocioni limping after injury in previous game. Makes one free throw. 24-8. And second. 24-9. Anthony three. 27-9. Good move and miss. Bosh rebounds. Williams misses. Bosh rebounds and fouled. 29-9. Makes free throw. 30-9. Nocioni makes shot at buzzer. 30-11. Ginobili headed for locker room.

Nocioni makes another 30-13. Offensive foul US. Delfino offensive foul. Another turnover. Paul from free throw line. 32-13. Push off on Nocioni. Paul dribbles through whole team for layup. 34-13. Scola hits off-balanced shot and gets fouled. 34-15. 34-16. Williams misses three. Howard fouls Delfino. Makes two. 34-18. 9-4 spurt by Argentina. Anthony rips three. 37-18. Fifth 3-pointer for US. Howard rebounds. Anthony short. Nocioni blocks Wade. Defensive play of game for Argentina. Argentina three. 37-21. Howard push off to get rebound after Anthony miss. Nocioni to the line. Makes two. 37-23. Kobe misses three. Nocioni misses three. Foul on James after rebound. Quinteros to the line. Makes two. 9-9. 37-25. Turnover. Argentina gives it back. Prigioni fouls Bryant. No shot. Kidd back in. James fouled. No shot. Fourth of quarter. James misses three. Bad foul by Kidd. Argentina back to the line. Gutierrez makes two. 37-27. Anthony misses three. Gutierrez layup. 37-29. Anthony fouled underneath. Will shoot two. 20-7 Argentina run after 30-9 US lead.

Redd comes in for US to attack Argentina zone. Anthony makes two. 39-29. Anthony blocks Delfino shot. Gutierrez scores. 39-31. Three for Kobe. 42-31. Anthony rebounds Delfino miss. Long three miss by Kobe. Nocioni fouls Anthony. His third foul. Anthony to line. Makes two. 44-31. Redd rebounds Quinteros miss. Offensive foul on CP. Nice move by Scola on Bosh. Makes shot and gets fouled. 44-34. Great defense by Argentina forces turnover. Argentina layup. 44-36. Foul on Scola. Prince in for US. Paul makes two. 46-36. Scola rebounds own miss and scores. 46-38. Paul misses three. Scola layup. 46-40. Kobe misses long three. Turnover. Kobe loose. Going in for dunk. Stripped. US maintains possession. Another Argentina run. 9-2 after 44-31. Three seconds left. Anthony shoots three. Foul called. Argentina coach doesn't like it. Three free throws. Makes three. 49-40. Delfino hits the rim from backcourt. Halftime. US 6-20 from three range. Only 33 field goal attempts overall. Too much long distance gunning.

Very nice comeback for Argentina without their star Manu. Were down 34-13. Won the rest of first half by 27-15. Got as close as six with possession but US defense held and Anthony made three free throws. Quiet game for James so far. Expect to see more of him in second half.

Only four fast break points for US. Anthony misses. Howard tips in the miss. 51-40. Held ball. Tied up by James. Shot clock at 3. Turnover. Tough shot by James missed. No Manu. Missed three. James rebounds. Howard layup. 53-40. Nocioni goes to basket. Foul on James. His third. Crawls in. 53-41. Still perfect for Argentina at line. Makes second. 53-42. James layup. 55-42. Scola jumper. 55-44. Anthony misses jumper. Gets rebound. James long three. Makes. 58-44. Bad miss by Scola. Kidd fouled. Third quarter starts OK for US.

No sign of Ginobili. Anthony misses. Howard rebounds. Gets fouled on putback. Anthony upset. Flagrant foul on Argentina. Howard misses first. Second one creeps in. 59-44. US retains possession. Good passing leads to Howard dunk. 61-44. Oberto shot. 61-46. Anthony short baseline jumper. 63-46. Wade in for Howard. LeBron is biggest US player on floor. Delfino hits 3. 63-49. Anthony fouled on layup. Better passing this quarter by US. Noiconi technical. 4th foul. Anthony makes four free throws. 67-49. US holds ball. Wade bad pass. Strong move by Scola. 67-51. Anthony takes the shot from Scola. Goes to bench. Bosh in. Bad communication between Kidd and James. Pass OB. Bosh blocks. James bad pass. James steal. Misses layup. Wade tip no good. Fouled. James to bench. Wade makes free throw. Misses second. US retains possession. 68-51. Wade misses bank shot. Great drive by Scola. 68-53. Wade fighting for rebounds. Goaltending on Argentina. 73. Scola plays for Houston Rockets. Good player. Scola jumper. 70-55. Wade to Williams for three. 73-55. Bosh fouls Scola. Turnover. Scola fouls Wade. His third. Wade misses first. And second. Argentina rebounds. Missed three. Bosh rebounds. Paul fouled on drive. Short on free throw. Great spin move by Paul. Makes second. 74-55. Prigioni misses long three. Anthony rebounds; fouled. Free throw machine. 11 in a row. Now 12. 13. 76-55. 21-point lead reestablished. Delfino three. 76-58. Anthony misses three. Wade rebounds. Fouled. Makes first. And second. 78-58. Delfino layup. 78-60. Travel on Williams. Delfino misses. Anthony foul on rebound. Missed free throw. Makes second. 78-61. US turnover. Delfino three. 78-64. Anthony miss. Delfino carrying Argentina in this quarter. Missed three. Bosh rebounds. Paul carry. Delfino misses three at buzzer. 78-64. 29-24 in that quarter.

Lunch time. Now US out by 19. 88-69. Eight for James in 4th quarter. Quinteros 88-71. James misses long three. Delfino dunks. Bad defense by US. 88-73. Bryant misses layup. Delfino brick. Alley oop to Bosh misses. Scola rebounds and makes. 88-75. Bosh putback of Anthony miss. 90-75. 22 points and 11 rebounds for Scola. Goaltending on Scola shot. 90-77. Turnover. Steal and dunk for Wade. 92-77. Delfino scores. 92-79. Bosh fouled. Shoots two. Makes two. 94-79. Bad pass. Taken by Paul. Pass to Wade for layup. 96-79. Delfino misses layup. Scola follows. 96-81. Wade misses. Bosh puts back. 98-81. Argentina miss. Wade fouled. Misses first. Makes second. 99-81. Paul to Wade. Good move. 101-81. One minute left. Boozer misses. Plucky effort by Argentina, but overmatched. US wins 101-81. Spain next on Sunday.