America asserts itself at Olympics

Posted: Monday, September 18, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia -- Surprise, surprise: yet another record-breaking effort at the Olympic pool -- this time by an American swimmer chasing a gold medal. A pair of U.S. boxing victories, now six straight overall. And another easy American softball win.

Tom Malchow set the Olympic standard Monday (Sunday night EDT) in preliminaries for the 200-meter butterfly. The 24-year-old Malchow, who already holds the world record, nipped .01 seconds off the mark set by American Melvin Stewart in winning a 1992 gold medal.

Record-breaking feats have become de rigeur in Sydney: Eight world marks fell on the first two days of the eight-day competition. Malchow qualified for the semifinals, along with the youngest U.S. swimmer, 15-year-old Michael Phelps.

Competing the morning after the U.S. swimmers swept a half-dozen medals, two other team members advanced in the women's 200 freestyle: Lindsay Benko and Rada Owen. Australian star Susie O'Neill, cheered by the home crowd at the Sydney International Aquatic Center, was top qualifier at 1:59.14.

Later, in the women's 200 individual medley, U.S. swimmers Cristina Teuscher and Gabrielle Rose advanced to the semifinals.

On Sunday, gold medal winner Tom Dolan broke his own 6-year-old world record in the 400-meter individual medley as the Americans seized the spotlight from Aussie teen sensation Ian Thorpe to capture two golds, three silvers and a bronze.

It was Dolan's second consecutive Olympic win in the event. Teammate Erik Vendt took a silver behind him -- the second one-two U.S. finish of the day. Brooke Bennett and Diana Munz took gold and silver in the 400 freestyle.

Dolan, an asthmatic bothered for the last month by a viral infection, exchanged high-fives with Vendt before climbing aboard the lane marker and exhorting the crowd to echo his triumphant screams.

''It was a tough swim,'' said Dolan, 25. ''I was feeling it coming home, but I knew if I got out ahead no one could beat me.''

Finishing off the medal rush were 33-year-old Dara Torres, who capped her comeback after a seven-year retirement with a bronze in the 100 fly, and Ed Moses, who won silver in the 100 breaststroke.

Moses finished behind Domenico Fioravanti, who won Italy's first-ever Olympic gold in the event. Torres couldn't catch Inge De Bruijn of the Netherlands, who lowered the 100 fly world mark for the third time this year in taking the gold.

About the only bad news: Jenny Thompson finished fifth in the fly, her first race after setting the record for gold medals by a U.S. woman with her sixth, all in relays.

BOXING: The U.S. boxers came to Sydney with high hopes, and so far they appear justified. Ricardo Rocky Juarez -- his father was a fan of heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano -- blasted his way past Bijan Batmani of Iran, winning in the third round on the 15-point rule (15-0).

A short time later, 165-pounder Jeff Lacy won on the same rule (17-2) in the third round after making Cleiton Conceicao of Brazil take a pair of standing 8-counts.

The American boxers have now won all six of their opening-round matches, with six to go. Earlier Sunday, 106-pounder Brian Viloria won a tough fight against Russian Sergei Kazakov. The 19-year-old Hawaiian built a 6-1 lead after two rounds, then held on for an 8-6 win over European champion Kazakov in a first-round bout.

WOMEN'S SOFTBALL: Power and pitching. For the second straight day, the U.S. softball team did both in cruising to victory.

One day after opening the Olympics with a no-hit victory, the Americans defeated Cuba 3-0.

SAMARANCH SERVICE: A downtown Sydney church was overflowing with mourners Monday (Sunday night EDT) at a memorial service for the wife of IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch. Maria Teresa Samaranch, 67, passed away Saturday in Barcelona, reportedly from cancer.

More than 300 people, including Olympic officials, dignitaries and friends, turned out for the special Mass in St. Patrick's Catholic Church. Seated in the front row was Australian swimming icon Dawn Fraser, who had accompanied Samaranch to the opening ceremony.

WOMEN'S SOCCER: The Chinese team extracted a little payback from its U.S. opponents, with goalie Goa Hong rejecting a penalty shot by Kristine Lilly to preserve a 1-1 tie.

Last year, it was U.S. netminder Briana Scurry's stop of a shootout penalty kick that won the World Cup for the Americans. Gao turned the tables with her lunge to stop Lilly in the 74th minute, while Julie Foudy scored the lone goal for the U.S. team.

MEN'S BASKETBALL: In its first rout du jour, the American hoopsters rolled over China in a game every bit as one-sided as its final score: 119-72.

China stayed competitive for the game's first six minutes, but Ray Allen's 3-pointer and breakaway dunk started the U.S. domination. The Americans were led by Allen, who had several highlight-reel dunks en route to 21 points, while Vince Carter had 16.

MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: The once-mighty U.S. volleyballers stumbled in their first Sydney contest, losing to Argentina 24-26, 25-23, 25-21, 25-18. The loss raised the possibility that the Americans, twice gold medal winners in the '80s, could go without medals for the second straight Olympics.

The team finished last in Atlanta.

WOMEN'S GYMNASTICS: In the land Down Under, things almost went topsy-turvy for the defending gold medalist U.S. women's team. After competing early Sunday (Saturday night EDT), they waited to see if they would qualify for the Olympic finals. After six anxious hours of waiting, they did -- by 0.4 points, barely avoiding humiliation.

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