Walsh, May-Treanor golden for U.S. on beach

BEIJING – U.S. women’s softball and U.S. women’s beach volleyball, two sure things at the Olympics.

Make that one sure thing.

Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor, who have never lost a set in the games, overcame steady rain, the partisan crowd and China’s Wang Jie and Tian Jia, 21-18 Thursday for their second straight beach volleyball gold medal. The duo has won 108 consecutive matches, a streak that could end soon because both plan to start families.

“We might be back,” May-Treanor said. “We want our kids to see us play.”

Hopefully in better conditions, though. Both Americans said it was the hardest continuous rain they have ever played in.

“The rain makes it better. We felt like warriors out there,” said Walsh, known as “Six Feet of Sunshine.”

While the masterful U.S. pair was extending its dominance in the sand, the equally untouchable softball squad got, well, touched. Make that knocked down and out in the gold medal game by Japan, 3-1.

Losing for the first time since 2000, the United States was denied a chance for a fourth straight gold medal in the sport’s last appearance in the Olympics for at least eight years – and maybe for good. The International Olympic Committee voted baseball and softball off the schedule for the London Games.

Yukiko Ueno, Japan’s remarkably resilient right-hander, shut down the Americans, who had won 22 straight Olympic games – usually in routs. The U.S. team also had some sloppy fielding in, well, sloppy conditions.

“It hurts a lot,” said slugger Crystl Bustos, who homered for the only U.S. run. “You train your whole life and you want to win. You don’t expect to lose.”

Particularly when you never do lose.

“She just beat us,” U.S. starter Cat Osterman said. “I’m not hanging my head too much about it.”

Ueno had pitched 21 innings – the equivalent of three complete games – on Wednesday to get her team to the gold-medal match.

How did she do it?

“It was my strong belief to win,” she said through an interpreter.

There were some happy times for U.S. athletes, particularly the women’s soccer team that won its third gold medal in four tries, edging Brazil 1-0 on Carli Lloyd’s goal in extra time; and the men’s 400 runners, who swept the medals.

China has 46 gold medals among its 83 total medals. The United States lead in overall medals with 95, including 29 gold.

Track and field

More disappointment for the Americans – the men and the women – particularly in the relays. Both teams dropped the baton, meaning the Americans would go 0-for-6 in the sprints for the first time.

“I take full blame for it,” Tyson Gay said of his bad exchange with third-leg runner Darvis Patton. “I kind of feel I let them down.”

About 25 minutes later, women’s anchor Lauryn Williams flubbed her exchange with Torri Edwards, who stared in disbelief at the baton sitting on the track. At the 2004 Olympics, Williams started running too early and missed a handoff from Marion Jones in the final.

“If people want to assess the blame to me, that’s OK. I mean, I can take whatever it is that people are going to dish out,” Williams said. “We had good chemistry. The hand was back there. She was there. I don’t know what happened.”

But the Americans also got that medals sweep in the 400. LaShawn Merritt won, and Jeremy Wariner, the defending world and Olympic champion and the favorite, slowed up at the end and barely held off David Neville, who dived across the finish line.

Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown ran the fastest women’s 200 in a decade, 21.74 seconds, to beat American Allyson Felix and complete her country’s sweep of the four men’s and women’s sprint races.

Campbell-Brown now has five Olympic medals, and, at 26, can still aspire to go to the London Games.

“I have four more years. If I can stay like this, I just have to train hard,” Campbell-Brown said.

World record-holder Dayron Robles of Cuba outran Americans David Payne and David Oliver in the 110 hurdles.

Nelson Evora of Portugal went 57 feet, 11 3/4 inches in the triple jump to win gold.

Bryan Clay of the United States led the decathlon after five events with 4,521 points, ahead of Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus, who had 4,433.

In other women’s events, Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic threw the javelin 234-3 3/4 for the Olympic title, and Russia’s Olga Kaniskina took the 20-kilometer race walk.

Volleyball

The “Iron Hammer” has calmly lead the U.S. women’s volleyball team to its best Olympic finish in more than 20 years.

Jenny Lang Ping – who was a member of the Chinese team that beat the U.S. in the final of the 1984 Los Angeles Games – led the Americans to the title match with a three-set win over Cuba.

The U.S. will play Brazil on Saturday for the gold medal. The Americans haven’t done better since that silver in 1984. They won the bronze in 1992.

Lang was nicknamed the “Iron Hammer” for her powerful spikes. But under her steady hand, the Americans improved to 6-1 in Beijing with the 25-20, 25-16, 25-17 victory over Cuba.

“It was unbelievable,” Lang said. “I am happy for myself, but I am more happy for the players. They deserve it, it’s a player’s dream. They’ve worked hard for three or four years and cooperated well. It’s not only these 12 players, we had to cut players who have worked very hard, so I’d like to celebrate with them as well.”

The Brazilians beat China in three sets in the other semifinal. Cuba will face China in the bronze medal match.

Water Polo

The Netherlands against the United States and, you guessed it, more heartbreak for the Americans.

Danielle de Bruijn scored seven goals in her final Olympic game, including the winner with 26 seconds remaining for a 9-8 victory in the gold medal match. The Americans came back from a 4-0 deficit, but couldn’t stop De Bruijn.

“I face a knee surgery, and after that, I am retiring from international competition,” she said. “It has been tough years and now I think I will do other things in my life besides water polo.”

Basketball

Diana Taurasi scored 21 points and Tina Thompson added 15 to help the U.S. women pull away from Russia, 67-52 to make the gold medal game against Australia, which routed China 90-56.

“We were ready for this test, and it was a test,” U.S. point guard Sue Bird said. “They played a great game. Even when we weren’t making our shots, they seemed to be making everything. We never got rattled. We stayed poised and our defense really led us through this.”

The U.S. had been averaging 99.2 points as they cruised through the first six games, winning by 43 points a contest.

Belinda Snell had 16 points to help the Aussies, sending them back to the gold-medal game for the third straight time – and to yet another match-up with the United States. They have lost to the Americans in the medal round of the past three Olympics.

Diving

China is 7-for-7 after Chen Ruolin rallied on her last dive to earn four 10s, winning the gold medal in women’s 10-meter platform. Only one diving event remains: men’s platform.

The 15-year-old Chen got out of the pool, bowed and cried after she had nailed her last – and toughest – dive to beat Canada’s Emilie Heymans.

“When I entered the water, I had a feeling that I was going to win,” Chen said through a translator.

Chen totaled 447.70 points off the high board. China had not won the women’s event since 1996.

Marathon Swimming

In an entirely different water event in Beixiaoying Town, Dutchman Maarten van der Weijden skirted just inside the final red buoy to grab gold in the men’s 10-kilometer open water race, completing a comeback after recovering from leukemia.

Van der Weijden won a three-way sprint in the inaugural event with a better-angled finish under a steady rain.

“I think the leukemia taught me to think step by step,” Van der Weijden said. “When you’re laying in the hospital bed and feeling so much pain and feeling so tired, you don’t want to think about next week or next month, you’re only thinking about the next hour.

“You just be patient. You lay in your bed and just wait. It’s almost the same strategy I’ve used here, to stay in the pack, to be patient, and stay easy just waiting for your chance.”

David Davies of Britain and Thomas Lurz of Germany drifted to the outside at the finish and settled for silver and bronze.

Canoe /Kayak

Two more Chinese boats qualified for the canoe/kayak finals, giving the country five chances at winning its second gold medal in the sport.

Zhong Hongyan won her 500-meter kayak single (K-1) semifinal in 1 minute, 53.163 seconds, while Li Qiang was third in the men’s 500-meter canoe single (C-1) race in 1:52.887.

China already qualified three boats for the first day of finals Friday. China’s only gold medal on the flatwater was in the men’s 500-meter canoe double in Athens.

America won’t be getting its first flatwater medal since 1992. Kayaker Carrie Johnson just missed the final in the 500 K-1 with a fourth-place finish, while Rami Zur had a disappointing sixth-place finish in the men’s race.

Table Tennis

The United States had its best showing ever in table tennis – thanks to a veteran of the Chinese national team who became an American citizen two years ago.

Wang Chen advanced to the quarterfinals by beating South Korea’s Kim Kyung-ah. She then lost to Singapore’s Li Jia Wei.

China’s dominance over its national sport continues, with all six of its singles players advancing.

Top-ranked Zhang Yining of China beat Feng Tianwei of Singapore, China’s Wang Nan defeated Hong Kong’s Tie Yana and Guo Yue beat Wu Xue of the Dominican Republic in women’s quarterfinals.

Wu also made history by reaching the quarterfinals, the best result ever for the Dominican Republic.

In men’s singles, Wang Hao, Wang Liqin and Ma Lin all won easily and advanced. The top threats to the Chinese, world No. 5 Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus and No. 6 Timo Boll of Germany, were eliminated during the round of 16 on Thursday night.Taekwondo

American Mark Lopez came within one kick – and one second – of winning gold.

South Korea, which has never failed to get at least a bronze in its native martial art, took the two taekwondo golds on the second day of competition, with Son Tae-jin scoring in the final second to send Lopez home to Texas with a silver.

But there is some consolation. Lopez’ kid sister, Diana, got a bronze. And his big brother and two-time Olympic champion Steven still has a shot at the gold.

Son beat Mark Lopez in the men’s 68-kilogram taekwondo competition.

“He threw a kick and I threw a kick and in my humble opinion I thought it should have been 1-1,” Lopez said. “But I respect the judges’ decision in giving him a point and not me. … It’s a subjective sport.”

Lim Su-jeong beat Turkey’s Azize Tanrikulu in the women’s 57 kg.

Wrestling

Artur Taymazov of Uzbekistan repeated as the Olympic freestyle champion at 120 kilograms, denying Russia its seventh wrestling gold medal in Beijing by defeating Bakhityar Akhmedov 3-0, 1-0.

Taymazov joined Russia’s Mavlet Batirov (60 kg) and Buvaysa Saytiev (74 kg) as repeat freestyle gold medalists from the Athens Games in 2004. Taymazov, 29, was a silver medalist in 2000. He also won world championships in 2003 and 2006, but always seems to be at his best in the Olympics.

“I think I cannot compare my three Olympics,” he said. “Each Olympics was difficult for me. I’d like to give this medal to those who love, trust me and respect me. I’m very happy I did not disappoint them.”

Georgia’s Revazi Mindorashvili won the men’s 84 kg class, and Russian Shirvani Muradov took the 96 kg gold.

Equestrian

In Hong Kong, Eric Lamaze of Canada rode Hickstead to the gold medal in equestrian individual jumping. Lamaze won a timed jump-off with Rolf-Goran Bengtsson of Sweden on Ninja. Bengtsson knocked down one rail in the jump-off, while Lamaze went clean to win the gold.

U.S. rider Beezie Madden on Authentic won the bronze.

Earlier Thursday, four horses in the Olympic equestrian team jumping competition – including one from Norway’s bronze-medal team – were provisionally suspended after testing positive for capsaicin, a banned pain reliever. Norway could lose its medal if a second test from the horse Camiro, ridden by Tony Andre Hansen, comes back positive.

The other three horses were Ireland’s Lantinus, ridden by Dennis Lynch; Brazil’s Chupa Chup, ridden by Bernardo Alves; and Germany’s Coster, ridden by Christian Ahlmann. Hansen, Lynch and Alves did not ride in Thursday night’s individual competition.

Modern Pentathlon

Andrey Moiseev of Russia won the men’s event, outlasting a pair of Lithuanians to become the event’s first back-to-back winner since Lars Hall of Sweden won in 1952 and 1956.

“I knew I performed very well, but I did not think I would get the gold medal before these Olympics started,” Moiseev said.

Moiseev won by 21 seconds. Edvinas Krungolcas won the silver, and Andrejus Zadneprovskis took the bronze.

Sailing

At Qingdao, Britain closed out the Olympic sailing with gold in the Star keelboat class for Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, its fourth sailing gold of the Beijing Games. The British also won one silver and a bronze. Australia finished with two golds and one silver, followed by Spain and the United States, each with one gold and one silver.

“It was really difficult British conditions today,” said Percy, the Finn class gold medalist from the Sydney Games. He said the pair heard the forecast – strong winds, heavy rain and rough seas – and “thought to ourselves, here we go. Bring it on. … We just had to keep our eyes on the main guys and fight, fight, fight.”

The fast Tornado class catamarans was won by Fernando Echavarri and Anton Paz of Spain. The German catamaran capsized in the choppy waters, and the Greek boat failed to finish,

“The conditions were really difficult today, and we were quite nervous,” Echavarri said. “After 10 years of training, we finally got our first Olympic medal. We feel like we’re the luckiest ones here.”

BMX

The men’s and women’s BMX semifinals and finals were rained out and rescheduled for Friday.

It was good news for American Kyle Bennett, who got an extra day to rest his injured left shoulder, which he dislocated in a nasty crash during a quarterfinal heat Wednesday. Mike Day, Donny Robinson and Jill Kintner also made it to the semis.

From Associated Press reports