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Sunday, August 15, 2004 - Page updated at 04:18 P.M.

Tough day for Phelps, U.S. men's basketball

Knight Ridder Newspapers

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ATHENS — Soaking up the Olympic experience wasn't all it was cracked up to be for some Americans today.

While an early end to Michael Phelps' bid for eight swimming gold medals wasn't a stunning upset, Puerto Rico's 92-73 demolition of the men's basketball team was.

Phelps, who won the 400-meter individual medley Saturday, advanced through two rounds of the 200-meter freestyle Sunday. But his 8-for-8 hopes were dashed when South Africa swam to a wire-to-wire, world-record victory in the 400-meter freestyle relay.

What was supposed to be a dual between the U.S. and Australia instead was a South African tidal wave. Roland Schoeman, Lyndon Ferns, Darian Townsend amd Ryk Neething combined to finish in 3 minutes, 13.17 seconds. The Netherlands, anchored by Pieter van den Hoogenband, got up for the silver in 3:14.36.

Phelps, 19, swam second and the U.S. finished with bronze in 3:14.62. Ian Crocker, Neil Walker and Jason Lezak completed the relay. Gabe Woodward, Nate Dusing, Walker and Gary Hall Jr. swam the morning semifinals. Hall did not attend the finals.

"We're disappointed, but we're fortunate to get a medal," Phelps said. "We did want to win gold. It's a different experience, a learning experience. The things I learned here tonight are things that I'll take into next year.

"The South Africans are all fast. They took everybody by surprise. They went out really fast and we tried to play catch-up."

Australia, with 400-meter free champion Ian Thorpe anchoring, struggled home sixth in the finals.

Phelps has six events left and a chance to tie Mark Spitz's record of seven swimming golds. Included is the 200-meter freestyle, in which he swam preliminaries and semifinals Sunday before moving on to the relay.

Earlier, Thorpe defeated Phelps in the freestyle semifinals, but it was first-heat winner and defending champion van den Hoogenband who had the fastest time, 1:46.00. Klete Keller of the U.S. also advanced.

Carlos Arroyo, a 6-foot-1 guard, led Puerto Rico's basketball upset, scoring 27 points. The loss was the first by the U.S. since turning Olympic chores over to pros in 1992. The U.S. is 109-3 all-time in the Olympics, 24-1 since 1992.
Puerto Rico led 49-27 at halftime.

Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson each scored 15 points for the U.S. Duncan added four rebounds and 16 assists.

Back at the outdoor Olympic Aquatic Center, Brendan Hansen of the U.S. established an Olympic record of 1:00.01 in the morning semifinals of the men's 100-meter breaststroke. But Japan's Kosuke Kitajima overcame Hansen in the finals, 1:00.08 to 1:00.25. Hugues Duboscq landed the bronze.

Petria Thomas, fourth in the women's 100-meter butterfly four years ago in her native Australia, moved to the top of the podium Sunday. She knocked off defending champion and world record-holder Inge de Bruijn of the Netherlands, and kept Jenny Thompson at bay.

Thomas slipped through the water in 57.22. Otylia Jedrzejczak of Poland snared second in 57.84, with de Bruijn holding on for bronze.

Thompson, with 11 medals over four Olympics, finished fifth, just as happened four years ago.

Laure Manaudou of France captured the women's 400-meter freestyle in 4:05.34.

Otylia Jedrzejczak of Poland garnered the silver medal, with Katelin Sandeno of the U.S. earning bronze.

Natalie Coughlin advanced through two rounds of the women's 100-meter backstroke, setting an Olympic record of 1:00.17 in the semifinals. Haley Cope qualified fifth-fastest.

Other Americans advancing to finals included Aaron Peirsol and defending champion Lenny Krayzelburg in the men's 100-meter backstroke; and Tara Kirk and Amanda Beard in the women's 100 breaststroke.

In tennis, defending champion Venus Williams and Chanda Rubin won their women's singles openers. Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish did the same in men's singles. And Martina Navratilova teamed with Lisa Raymond to win a first-round women's doubles match.

Other medal events on Day Two:

— Australia's Sara Carrigan scored a seven-second victory over Germany's Judith Arndt in women's road cycling. Kristin Armstrong of Boise, Idaho, was the first American, in eighth. Defending champion Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel of the Netherlands crashed and did not finish.

— Russia's Alexei Alipov hit all 25 targets in the finals to win the gold medal in trap shooting. America's Lance Bade, third at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, finished fifth.

— Ukraine's Olena Kostevych captured the women's air pistol event, needing a shootoff to edge Jasna Sekaric of Serbia-Montenegro.

— Udomporn Polsak gave Thailand its first women's Olympic gold medal, in the 53-kilogram (117-pound) weightlifting division. She totaled 490 1/2 pounds. Turkey's Halil Mutlu repeated as men's 56-kilo (123-pound) champion with a total lift of 650 pounds.

— Hungary's Timea Nagy got the better of France's Laura Flessel-Colovic to grab gold in women's epee fencing.

— China won its third judo gold of the Games, with Xian Dongmei beating Japan's Yuki Yokosawa in the women's 52-kilogram (114.6-pound) gold-medal match. Japan also mined judo gold as Masato Uchishiba downed Slovakia's Jozef Krnac in the men's 66-kilo (145 1/2-pound) finals.

Two-time world champion Arash Miresmaeili of Iran had been favored to win the latter category, but failed to make weight. Judo officials are investigating whether the Iranian deliberately missed weight in order to avoid meeting Ehud Vaks of Israel because of political reasons.

Among other highlights:

—T he world-champion U.S. women's gymnasts placed second in preliminaries, behind the defending Olympic champions. Romania scored 152.436 to Team USA's 151.848. Carly Patterson had the highest all-around score, 38.337, and Courtney Kupets ranked fourth.

— In rowing, both U.S. eights won opening heats in world-record time. The women edged Romania by two-tenths of a second, passing directly to the finals with a record of 5:56.55 for 2,000 meters. The men's team finished more than half a second ahead of Canada. Their time of 5:19.85 lopped 2.95 seconds off the record.

— The U.S. softball team snared its second straight five-inning, mercy rule victory, 10-0 over Australia.

— The U.S. men's water polo team slipped past Croatia 7-6.

— Vanes Martirosyan of Glendale, Calif., pounded out a 45-20 victory over Algeria's Benamar Meskine in a first-round welterweight boxing match.

— At Panathinaiko Stadium, site of the 1896 Olympics, Jennifer Nichols of Cheyenne, Wyo., advanced to Tuesday's round of 16 in archery, scoring a 160-151 victory over Rina Puspitasari of India.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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