Monday, August 18, 2008

Day 10 RECAP: American Sweep in Hurdles Highlights American Night at Bird's Nest

There were plenty of highlights (and one lowlight) to go around on Day 10 of competition at the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing, China. The day began with disappointment for all of China when Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang pulled out of the event this morning with grimace on his face as he dealt with a strained right achilles. While this was the worst possible news to affect the Chinese Olympic team and its fans, gold continued to add to the tally accumulated by the Chinese, as it won medals in men's table tennis and artistic gymnastics. Meanwhile, the United States got back into the gold medal race when it won several medals in track and field and won the team jumping final in equestrian.

Olympic Highlight of the Day...
The United States had come into the fourth day of the track and field competition without having won a gold medal, as well as not having won any medal on the track. After shutouts from the men's and women's 100 meter finals, the United States had a tremendous chance for gold in the 400 meter hurdles, with defending champion Felix Sanchez failing to qualify.

Led by Angelo Taylor in lane 6, the United States swept the medals in the men's 400m hurdles, winning the country's first medals on the track. Taylor won in a time of 47.25 seconds. Kerron Clement off of lane 4 finished second and Bershawn Jackson from lane 7 finished third. This was the first American sweep in the event since 1960 when the games were held in Rome. The win capped a successful day for the Americans after American Stephanie Brown Trafton won gold in the women's discus throw.

American pole vaulter Jenn Stuczynski won silver in the women's pole vault by clearing a height of 15 feet, 5 inches. The competition, however, was dominated by Russia
n Elena Isinbayeva, who won her second straight gold medal in the event. She beat her own world record by clearing a height of 16 feet, 6 3/4 inches. In other action at National Stadium on Monday night, Pamela Jemilo won the 800 meters race in a one-two finish for Kenya. Jemilo won in a time of 1 minute, 54.87 seconds, a new world junior record. Kenya also won gold in the men's 3000 meters steeplechase.

Feel Good Moment of Day 10...
It's always a feel good moment when a nation wins its first ever Olympic gold medal. That happened today in track and field, when Panama's Irving Saladino won gol
d in the men's long jump.
Saladino won by jumping 8.34 meters. South Africa's Khotso Mokoena won silver and Cuba's Ibrahim Camejo won the bronze.

Earlier in the year, it was uncertain if Panama would even be competing at the Beijing Olympics. The International Olympic Committee had banned Panama for participating after an IOC meeting in Guatemala in 2007. The IOC had imposed the ban due to government interference in the country's national olympic committee and internal problems that had existed in the organization.

But after the Comite Olimpico de Panama held elected a new board on March 19, the IOC lifted the ban in April, paving the way for Saladino to participate in these games and win their first ever gold medal.

Upset of the Day (and quite possibly, of the Olympics)...
It was supposed to be the defining moment of these Olympic Games. When Liu Xiang, the defending gold medalist, takes to the track on Thursday night in front of the people of China at the Bird's Nest and on television to win gold in his signature event. That moment will never happen.

Liu Xiang has been the face of these Olympic Games since winning gold in Athens four years ago. His run up to the games has been followed closely by all of China and he has been put on at least on ebillboard within every square mile. Thursday night at National Stadium remains the hottest ticket of the games, but the night's biggest star will be unable to compete.

Up to now, these have been the perfect Olympics for China. They lead the gold medal count after winning nearly all the competitions in men's gymnastics, sweeping all the medals thus far in diving and countless other victories across other sports. But it appears that the medal that meant to the Chinese the most was the gold that was supposed to be won by Liu Xiang on Thursday. Without that medal, it appears that these games, at least to China, will fall short of perfection.

But China will understand that Liu Xiang gave his all, that he knew what that moment meant not only to him but to the1.3 billion people of China. It was brave and courageous for him to even step out onto the track, with a look of grimace on his face because of the pain he felt, and try to at least compete, which was the essential message of the Olympic movement: to take part. He understood what kind of pressure was on him. The expectations were similar to or even greater than the United States had on Michael Phelps. And Liu Xiang only had to win one gold medal.

And while Liu Xiang will never get a chance to race for Olympic gold in Beijing ever again, China should still be proud of him. These Olympics were promoted in China thanks in part to the famous Chinese hurdler. Without him, the games wouldn't be as successful. And though he will be absent on Thursday night, these games remain to be one of the most successful Olympics held in history.

Dominating Performance of the Day...
It's hard enough to compete in a triathlon. It's even harder to win a triathlon. But when you run away from the competition, then that gets you the title of Dominating Performance of the Day.
Australia's Emma Snowsill finished more than a minute ahead the rest of the field in her gold medal win of the women's triathlon on Monday. She even had time to stop and get a flag on her way to the finish line. Snowsill finished the swim-bike-run event in a time of 1:58:27.66 after pulling away from the other competitors at the start of the final leg. Snowsill's win was the first Australian win in the women's triathlon, which first became a part of the Olympic program in 2000 in Sydney.

Team Performance of the Day...
Table tennis was always China's sport, and it remained that way when they won Men's Team gold earlier on Day 10. China swept Germany, 3-0, to capture gold while South Korea won the bronze.
China beats Germany for team table tennis gold 11:29 am EDT (AP)

Other highlights of Day 10:
- Women's soccer semifinals took place earlier today. Brazil advanced after a 4-1 win over Germany in a rematch of the Women's World Cup final. Brazil will face the United States, who rallied to beat Japan, 4-2, in the other semifinal.
- Nastia Liukin settled for silver after losing a tiebreak in the women's uneven bars. Liukin and China's He Kexin got the same score, 16.725. But the gold was awarded to He because she received a higher execution score. A tiebreaker also decided the medals of the men's vault competition. when Poland's Leszek Blanik beat France's Thomas Bouhail after both scored 16.537.

NOW Sports will be back later with a preview of Day 11 of competition at the games of the XXIX Olympiad.

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