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2012 SUMMER OLYMPICS --- DAY 7 ROUNDUP: U.S. women’s hoops overcomes slow start, rolls to win; American men’s beach volleyball stars stunned; track & field gets under way

U.S.A. women’s hoops star Diana Taurasi fakes out the Czech Republic defense Friday with a no-look pass as she helped lead the Americans to an easy 88-61 victory.

U.S.A. women’s hoops star Diana Taurasi fakes out the Czech Republic defense Friday with a no-look pass as she helped lead the Americans to an easy 88-61 victory.

U.S. men's boxing team all but eliminated after worst performance in history

LONDON — A few hours after the U.S. men’s boxing team thought it was done at the Olympics, amateur boxing’s governing body decided Errol Spence deserved to fight on.

AIBA overturned Spence’s loss to Indian welterweight Krishan Vikas late Friday night, five hours after the defense-minded Vikas had apparently clutched and grabbed his way to a 13-11 victory.

After the American team protested the result, AIBA’s competition jury reviewed the bout and ruled Vikas had committed nine holding fouls in the third round alone. He also intentionally spit out his mouthpiece in the second round, which should have resulted in at least four points of deductions.

Spence advanced into the quarterfinals to face Russia’s Andrey Zamkovoy on Tuesday. If he wins, the American men’s team will avoid leaving the Olympics with no medals for the first time ever.

“I am obviously thrilled that the competition jury overturned my decision and I can continue chasing the gold medal I came here to win,” Spence said late Friday night. “I am going to make the most of this second chance that I’ve been given. I can’t wait to get back in that ring on Tuesday.”

Spence felt he had won the bout afterward, expecting his hand to be raised in the ring, but wasn’t terribly surprised when Vikas got the nod. The welterweight from Dallas already was the last U.S. man standing after his eight male teammates lost in the previous five days, including three-time Olympian Rau’shee Warren’s 19-18 loss to France’s Nordine Oubaali an hour earlier.

Spence stopped the eight-fight skid, but must beat Zamkovoy to save the most successful team in Olympic boxing history from its first medal shutout and its worst showing at any games — although three U.S. women are still alive in their first Olympic tournament, which begins Sunday.

Spence’s late reprieve was surreal for a team that appeared headed home with nothing. Spence struggled to penetrate Vikas’ technical, plodding style despite showing superior power and entertainment value.

“We did a lot of work, got a lot of coaching, but it’s the judges that we feel we’re going against most of the time,” Warren said.

The 2008 U.S. team won only one bronze medal in Beijing, the worst showing so far — but at least that team won six total fights, one more than the London team. The American men have won only one gold medal in the last three Olympics, by Andre Ward in Athens in 2004.

The vaunted American team has claimed at least one boxing medal in every modern Olympics where boxing was a sport except the boycotted Moscow Games, and many of the men who won them are among the giants of the sweet science.

Cassius Clay, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Floyd Patterson, Oscar De La Hoya, Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones Jr. and Floyd Mayweather Jr. all won medals for U.S. teams, leading generations of boxing talent the world couldn’t match.

The Americans’ 48 gold medals and 108 total medals are easily the most in Olympic boxing history, with 45 more medals than second-place Cuba.

The London team actually won its first four fights last weekend, but then the losses piled up with alarming speed. The Americans’ poor performance caps a two-decade struggle to adapt to changes in the amateur sport, with steadily declining medal counts ever since boxing went to a computerized scoring system that rewards a style with stark differences from pro boxing.

The U.S. seemed headed for a better showing last week. The 4-0 start showed its improved team chemistry after the Beijing team squabbled and argued its way to a dismal showing.

The current U.S. team has a strong relationship with coach Basheer Abdullah and his staff, even though Abdullah only had about six weeks to prepare as a late hire by USA Boxing. None of the fighters blamed the coaching-staff turmoil for his performance, but the string of losses was stark: Three fighters lost on Wednesday, followed by two more on Thursday before Warren’s defeat.

After Spence’s apparent loss, Abdullah came close to suggesting the judges might have been biased against some American fighters, although he also believes U.S. boxers need years of training in the amateur sport to compete at its highest levels. Amateur boxing features five ringside judges who award points only when they believe a punch lands, rather than traditional scoring systems that evaluate skill, style, technique and aggression.

The amateur sport moved to a computerized scoring system after Jones’ infamous loss at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, when three judges awarded a decision to South Korea’s Park Hi-sun after Jones dominated their fight.

“I don’t blame any (scoring) systems,” Abdullah said. “I blame the people that operate them. I’m disappointed in some of the things I’m seeing.”

Spence knew the feeling after three rounds of trying to break through the passive guard of Vikas, who fights a rigid amateur style emphasizing defense and tactical aggression. India’s amateur boxing scene has surged in popularity in the four years since Vijender Singh won his nation’s first Olympic medal in Beijing, with thousands of prospective Olympians training in the amateur style with no intention of ever turning pro.

“I thought I won the fight,” said Spence, a talented puncher who intends to turn pro this fall, along with most of his teammates. “I thought I threw more punches and landed more shots. I thought I was the more aggressive boxer. It was kind of frustrating, but he’s fighting to the computer system.”

Warren’s loss was particularly heartbreaking. The undersized dynamo nicknamed “Nuke” twice passed on a pro career and a chance to provide financially for his growing family to take another shot at hanging a gold medal around the neck of his mother, Paulette.

He waited well over a decade for this moment, climbing the amateur ranks in his native Cincinnati and avoiding the pitfalls that put two of his three brothers in prison. He got to the top of the amateur sport — and then stumbled at the three biggest moments of his career.

Warren wept in Beijing when he lost his opening bout on a last-minute tactical error. Four years and another one-point loss later, he seemed dulled to the pain of going winless in his unmatched Olympic career.

And he won’t be back for Rio: Warren said he’ll turn pro, probably along with every member of his team.

“It ain’t really no setback for me,” Warren said. “I’ve got big things coming up. This isn’t the end for Rau’shee Warren.”

Oubaali rallied from a first-round deficit with more aggression and precision than the third-seeded Warren, a former world champion. Warren also lost his contact lenses in the opening round and couldn’t size up Oubaali, who mostly controlled the final two rounds.

Warren still thought he might have eked out the decision, but few fans at ExCel seemed surprised when Oubaali got the decision. Abdullah also said he agreed with the decision.

Now 25, Warren says he’s still happy he stuck around to become the first three-time U.S. Olympic boxer — even though he might still turn out to be the biggest disappointment on the least successful American team ever.

“It’s always a good experience,” he said, “to do something people don’t normally do.”

LONDON — Coach Geno Auriemma is looking for little ways to improve an already dominant U.S. women’s basketball team.

His focus for Friday’s game was rebounding.

Tina Charles and her teammates got the message, then pulled down a team-record 62 rebounds in an 88-61 win over the Czech Republic on Friday night.

“Coach definitely put an emphasis of getting on the offensive boards,” said Charles, who grabbed 15 rebounds and had 16 points. “We got to keep doing that.”

With center Sylvia Fowles still resting her sore left foot and Charles setting the tone, it became contagious. Angel McCoughtry finished with 11 boards, Lindsay Whalen nine and Maya Moore eight.

The team turned 27 offensive rebounds into 24 points.

“I think we had six in a row on one possession,” Auriemma said.

Diana Taurasi scored 18 points to lead the Americans (4-0), who have now won 37 straight games in the Olympics. The U.S. started slow but looked fresh after its first day off since getting together on July 14 to start training for the London Games.

The Americans had rolled through their first three opponents, winning by 36 points a game. The onslaught continued against the Czechs (1-3), who will need to win their final game Sunday to possibly advance to the quarterfinals.

The Czechs jumped out to a quick lead scoring the first 10 points of the game in just two minutes. It was the Americans’ biggest deficit in the Olympics since they trailed the Czechs 13-2 in the opener of the 2008 Beijing Games. They went on to win that game by 40 points.

“We had a little bit of a tough time getting shots to go in and the Czech Republic team did a great job of hitting their threes,” Moore said of the Americans’ slow start. “We just try to stay aggressive. It’s about when the other team hits you, you gotta get back up and figure out a way to overcome it. And that’s what we did.”

The Czech Republic also played the U.S. tight for a half in the 2010 world championship gold medal game, trailing by five at the break. The U.S. won that contest by 20.

The Czechs led 26-24 after the first quarter after hitting six of their first 10 3-point attempts. They didn’t hit another 3-pointer the rest of the game, missing their final 11 attempts.

While the Czechs went cold, the Americans heated up behind Charles and Catchings.

Trailing 30-26, the Americans scored 22 of the next 28 points to go up 48-36 with 2:18 left in the half. Catchings and Charles each had six points during the burst. Catchings’ layup off a fullcourt pass from Moore gave the U.S. a 31-30 lead. After a Czech basket, Charles scored six straight and the U.S. never trailed again.

The Americans led 48-38 at the half and put the game away with a 20-3 run to start the second half. Taurasi hit two 3-pointers during the spurt.

The Czechs couldn’t get within 20 points of the U.S. the rest of the way.

“Throughout the whole game I think our defensive intensity picked up,” Catchings said. “The third quarter was probably one of the best third quarters we’ve had since we’ve been playing together. Now we’ve just got it going in the first half, start the game off that way.”

Michaela Zrustova scored 15 points to lead the Czech Republic.

“Very tough game,” said Eva Viteckova, who finished with 12 points. “Our main problems was the rebounding, they had 22 more rebounds than us (actually 23). They also have a very good fast break.

“It’s always very difficult to play against the Americans, we know we can never be winners against them, they are so much better. But we started very well and maybe they were surprised by our performances.

“They can be beaten, if the other team has a very good day and they (the U.S.) has a very bad day.”

While the U.S. has already clinched a spot in the quarterfinals, the Czechs (1-2) still are trying to advance.

They made a surprising run to the silver medal at the worlds, knocking off defending champion Australia in the quarterfinals before losing to the U.S. in the title game. The Czech Republic was definitely buoyed in that tournament by its home crowd that included President Vaclav Klaus for the championship game.

The Americans will close out pool play Sunday against China, which was routed by Turkey 82-55.

Also Friday, Australia’s Liz Cambage had the play of the day — maybe of the Olympic women’s basketball tournament when she dunked in the Aussies’ 70-66 win over Russia. Canada advanced to the quarterfinals with a 79-73 victory over Brazil. Croatia routed Angola 75-56; and France edged Britain 80-77 in overtime.


U.S. WOMEN'S SOCCER TEAM ROLLS INTO SEMIS:

NEWCASTLE, England — These were perhaps going to be the Hope Solo Olympics for the U.S. women’s soccer team. Or maybe the Alex Morgan Games. Instead, they belong so far to the old reliable, Abby Wambach, who has scored in every match to lead the Americans into the semifinals.

The 32-year-old striker slid onto the ball in the 27th minute Friday to knock home her fourth goal of the tournament and then led a celebration of cartwheels — a tribute to the gymnastics team — in the United States’ 2-0 win over New Zealand in the quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament.

“Everything she does on and off the field, she leads this team,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. “She’s in a good place, that’s for sure.”

Sydney Leroux added an insurance goal in the 87th minute for the two-time defending gold medallists, who will play Canada match in Manchester on Monday. The Americans beat the Canadians 4-0 in Olympic qualifying in January.

Wambach extended her U.S. record with her eighth career Olympic goal — a mark she holds despite missing the Beijing Games with a broken leg — and pushed her international tally to 142, only 16 behind Mia Hamm’s world record. For most of the year, she has yielded much of the scoring load to youngster Morgan while using both holistic and traditional treatments to treat the nagging Achilles tendinitis that has bothered her for some three years.

“I don’t know if it’s the adrenaline, I’m not quite sure exactly what the reason is, but I’m not going to ask questions at this point,” Wambach said. “I’m just playing pain-free for the first time in a long time.”

New Zealand coach Tony Readings called Wambach “a nightmare,” and the sight of the 5-foot-11 veteran battling multiple defenders and picking herself up off the ground has become so commonplace that her teammates hardly notice.

“Oh, we turn a blind eye to all of her bumps and bruises,” goalkeeper Solo said. “She hits the floor, she hits the ground, it doesn’t even faze us any more because she’s tough. She might be hurting, but she’s mentally tough. She has more of a lion and a passion inside that nothing will stop her, and she’ll find a way to win. It rubs off on everybody.

“But maybe we should probably go up to her and say, ‘Abby, you OK?’” Solo added with a laugh. “But we just ignore it.”

Wambach’s scoring spurt is remarkable given all the attention she draws from the opposition. Even though her speed isn’t what it used to be, she’s still one of the strongest players in the game and is unmatched in the air — yet three of her four goals at the Olympics have come with her feet.

On Friday, she supplied the finishing touch to some hard work from Morgan, who took a long ball from Rachel Buehler, juked one defender and threaded the ball through two others toward the net. Morgan said it was a shot, but it turned into her third assist of the tournament — finding Wambach’s sliding right foot at the far post.

Wambach and the U.S. players, always looking for novel ways to display their happiness, then ran to the corner of the field and started doing cartwheels before the crowd of 10,441 at venerable St. James’ Park, home of Newcastle. They tried to stick their landings — something akin to what they saw on television from Gabby Douglas when they watched the American gymnast win the all-around title on Thursday.

“We obviously don’t do it quite as well,” Wambach said. “But we wanted to send a shout out to all the gymnastics.”

No one has publicly criticized such celebrations by the Americans at these Olympics, but the New Zealand coach said it’s something he wouldn’t want to see from his players.

“I wouldn’t like it if our team did that,” Readings said, “when teams concede and they’re disappointed and they want to get on with the game. But it’s obviously something the Americans do. … It’s something I guess they work on in training. I hope we try to work on scoring goals and stopping Wambach and Morgan. We haven’t got time to work on celebrations. If it makes them happy and they win games, then good on them.”

Sundhage said she’s been fine with her players’ antics.

“I’m not a psychologist,” the U.S. coach said. “We score goals, and you’re happy. What the players want to do, whatever they do, it has to be fun. If they come up with ideas, that’s perfectly fine.”

Solo recorded her third consecutive shutout, although once again she was rarely challenged. The Americans haven’t allowed a goal since France scored twice early in the first half of the Olympic opener.

“We haven’t been really tested,” Solo said. “I’m waiting to still get tested, but that’s what happens when you’re ranked No. 1.”

New Zealand, ranked 23rd in the world, was making its first appearance in the knockout phase of a major tournament. The Football Ferns have lost nine straight to the U.S., with their only win in the series coming in 1987.

Even though they’re on a winning streak, the Americans had trouble turning control-of-play dominance into goals for the third straight game. They led Colombia 1-0 before getting two goals late in the second half and beat North Korea 1-0, albeit after slowing the game down in the second half to save their legs for the quarterfinals.

Morgan was just wide with a pair of solid scoring chances, and Morgan and Wambach both had scary collisions with New Zealand goalkeeper Jenny Bindon. Wambach kicked Bindon in the head in the first half, and Morgan did the same in the second half.

Morgan’s collision left her with a charley horse and she soon left for Leroux, the youngest player on the team and the only one who wasn’t on last year’s World Cup squad. It didn’t take long for Leroux to score her first Olympic goal, outpacing the New Zealand defenders with a run down the left side and beating Bindon with a strong left-footed finish.

There were no cartwheels from the 21-year-old forward after the ball went in. Just unbridled joy.

“I didn’t plan anything because I went crazy,” Leroux said. “I was unaware that I scored, I think. I blacked out, I’m pretty sure. I was just, like, going crazy. … I think I almost starting crying and the game wasn’t even over.”


DAY 7 ROUNDUP:

LONDON — Two more things to know about Friday, Day 7 of the London Olympics:

—Saudi woman’s judo appearance hailed as victory for women in ultraconservative kingdom.

—Track and field gets under way with fans filling up stadium.

Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani became the first Saudi woman to compete at the Olympics when she lost her judo fight in 82 seconds. And she only made it to the mat after a compromise between Olympic organizers, the international judo federation and Saudi officials cleared the way for her to wear a modified hijab.

The crowd roared right before Shahrkhani’s fight against Puerto Rico’s Melissa Mojica. The Saudi, wearing judo dress and what appeared to be a tight-fitting black cap, looked tentative and cautious on her feet, and Mojica eventually grabbed Shahrkhani and flipped her onto her back, ending the match.

As she rose to her feet, Shahrkhani gently reached for her head to make sure the hijab was still in place. It was, and the two women bowed to each other and left to a loud ovation.

Afterward, the teenager walked with her father past journalists and TV cameras.

“I am happy to be at the Olympics,” she whispered in Arabic, her brother, Hassan, holding both her arms. “Unfortunately, we did not win a medal, but in the future we will and I will be a star for women’s participation.”

Olympic Stadium was packed for the first time since the opening ceremony, and heptathlete Jessica Ennis gave the delirious crowd exactly what it was hoping to see.

Ennis finished the 100-meter hurdles in 12.54 seconds, the fastest time ever in the heptathlon’s first event and one of the highlights on a raucous opening day for track and field.

Ennis’ time matched Dawn Harper’s gold-winning burst in the 100-meter hurdle final at the Beijing Games — and would’ve been good enough to take that title at the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympics.

“Amazing. So loud. When you step up to jump or get in your blocks, they really get behind you. It’s a great feeling,” Ennis said of the home crowd.

Poland’s Tomasz Majewski (men’s shot put) and Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba (women’s 10,000 meters) won the first gold medals in track and field, and world champion Carmelita Jeter of the U.S. led the 100-meter heats with a time of 10.83 seconds.

The rest of the Olympic action Friday:

BEACH VOLLEYBALL

Defending gold medalists Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser of the United States were knocked out of the Olympics by Italy.

Rogers and Dalhausser lost the first set 21-17 and fell behind Paolo Nicolai and Danielle Lupo 12-7 in the second. The Americans tied it 19-19 but lost the final two points and were eliminated when Rogers’ spike was blocked back into him by the 6-foot-8-inch Nicolai.

Jennifer Kessy and April Ross of the U.S. beat Switzerland’s Simone Kuhn and Nadine Zumkehr to advance to the quarterfinals of the women’s tournament. Brazil’s top-seeded Juliana and Larissa also advanced, eliminating the Netherlands 21-10, 21-17, and Laura Ludwig and Sara Goller beat fellow Germans Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler 21-16, 21-15.

VOLLEYBALL

Destinee Hooker scored 19 points and the U.S. women’s team clinched the top spot in its pool with a preliminary-round victory over Serbia in straight sets.

Logan Tom added 12 points in the 25-17, 25-20, 25-16 sweep. The U.S. will wrap up the preliminary round with a match against Turkey on Sunday.

Brazil stayed alive in the preliminary round with a 3-2 victory over China. Now 2-2, Brazil is still on the ropes with one match left against last-place Serbia on Sunday.

Italy and the Dominican Republic each had three-set victories. Turkey edged South Korea in five, and Russia topped Japan 3-1.

WATER POLO

Maggie Steffens scored three goals and the U.S. women’s team beat China 7-6 in its final preliminary-stage game.

The U.S. finished the preliminary round even with Spain at the top Group A with five points. But Spain earned the top spot because of the tiebreaker, and the Americans will play 2012 European champion Italy in Sunday’s quarterfinals.

Spain beat Hungary 13-11, Australia edged Russia 11-8, and Italy topped host Britain 10-5.

CYCLING

No tears for Victoria Pendleton this time. Just jubilation.

Pendleton washed away the disappointment of her disqualification in the team sprint by winning the Olympic gold medal in the keirin with a flawless performance.

Pendleton, who was devastated and left in tears after the team sprint, raised both arms after crossing the finish line and then brandished a Union Jack to the delight of the 6,000 spectators.

The 31-year-old Pendleton gave Britain its third gold medal in two days of competition on the super fast track, just moments after Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh and Steven Burke won the team pursuit title in a world record time.

ROWING

Mahe Drysdale was really nervous before the men’s single sculls final. He felt really great when it was all over.

The star oarsman from New Zealand won his race in the Olympic rowing regatta, completing the resume of one of the sport’s leading names. The five-time world champion finished in 6 minutes, 57.82 seconds.

Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic got the silver, and Britain’s Alan Campbell surged late for third.

New Zealand also got a victory in men’s pair, with Hamish Bond and Eric Murray extending their three-year unbeaten run.

Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins won the women’s double sculls for host Britain, and Germany upset favorite Croatia for the men’s quadruple sculls title.

GYMNASTICS - TRAMPOLINE

China’s Dong Dong took the gold in men’s competition, putting together a dizzying series of flips and twists. Dmitry Ushakov of Russia was second, and defending Olympic champion Lu Chunlong of China grabbed the bronze.

EQUESTRIAN

Charlotte Dujardin’s record score riding Valegro helped Britain take a slender lead over Germany after the two-day first round of the dressage competition.

Rafalca, co-owned by the wife of U.S. presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and ridden by Jan Ebeling, scored 70.243 percent to place 30th out of 50 riders.

DIVING

Wu Minxia and He Zi of China led the preliminaries of women’s 3-meter springboard, another dominating performance by the country that captured the first four diving golds of the London Games.

Minxia surged ahead with a brilliant final dive, a back 2½ somersault in the pike position. The crowd gasped when she sliced through the water, barely causing a ripple.

SAILING

Ben Ainslie won the 10th race in the Finn regatta to set up a dramatic showdown in his quest to become the most successful sailor in Olympic history.

He pulled within two points of Denmark’s Jonas Hoegh-Christensen, who has led the Finn fleet since Race 1 and angered Ainslie on Thursday with a claim that the British star hit a turning mark.

Ainslie is trying for his fourth straight gold medal and fifth games medal overall.

TABLE TENNIS

China defeated Spain 3-0 to reach the women’s quarterfinals, and second-seeded Japan also advanced easily.

Singles gold medalist Li Xiaoxia, silver medalist Ding Ning and Guo Yue got the wins for China, which took the top two spots in women’s and men’s singles.

Japan also swept the United States.

Hong Kong, Austria, Portugal and Germany won on the men’s side.

FIELD HOCKEY

Argentina earned its first points in the men’s field hockey competition, drawing 2-2 with No. 1 Australia.

Argentina captain Matias Vila scored just after halftime and teammate Gonzalo Peillat tied it on a penalty corner in the final minutes.

The Netherlands beat New Zealand 5-1 for its third win in a row. Germany, Britain, Spain and Belgium also won.

SHOOTING

Sergei Martynov of Belarus set a world record in the men’s 50-meter rifle prone, and Cuba got its first shooting gold medal at an Olympics when Leuris Pupo won the 25-meter rapid fire pistol.

Martynov became the second shooter in Olympic history to score the maximum 600 points in qualification and finished with a total of 705.5 points, beating the 12-year-old mark from Germany’s Christian Klees by 0.7.

The silver went to Belgium’s Lionel Cox, and Rajmond Debevec of Slovenia took third.

Pupo scored 34 shots in the final, beating Vijay Kumar of India by four shots. Ding Feng of China won bronze with 27 points.

HANDBALL

Spain joined France in the women’s handball quarterfinals after eliminating Sweden with a 25-24 win, while Croatia and Russia also continued preparations for the next round with victories.

Nely Alberto Francisca and Marta Mangue Gonzalez each scored six goals for Spain.

France, Angola and Norway also won.

ELSEWHERE IN LONDON

Oh Jin-hyek of South Korea won the men’s individual archery competition, topping Takaharu Furukawa of Japan in a one-sided final. The bronze went to China’s Dai Xiaoxiang, who beat Rick van der Ven of the Netherlands 10-8 in a shoot-off tiebreaker. … Svetlana Podobedova won Kazakhstan’s third weightlifting gold medal of the games, beating Russia’s Natalya Zabolotnaya in a women’s 75-kilogram showdown decided on the last lift. Poland’s Adrian Zielinski made the most defending champion Lu Yong’s early exit, winning the men’s 85-kg weight class. … The badminton gold for mixed doubles went to China’s Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei. … South Korea won the men’s team saber. … Judo golds went to France’s Teddy Riner (over 100-kg) and Cuba’s Idalys Ortiz (women’s 78-kg).

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