Sarah Attar -- covered from head to toe, except for her smiling face poking out from her headscarf -- becomes the first woman from Saudi Arabia to compete in track and field at the Olympics.
LONDON — Two things to know about Wednesday, Day 12 of the London Olympics:
-- Attar makes Olympic track debut for Saudi women.
-- Semenya off to solid Olympic start three years after gender test.
The crowd roared when Sarah Attar was introduced during the morning session, and she responded with a wave, a wide smile and a bit of a chuckle.
This was one extraordinary 800-meter heat.
Covered from head to toe, except for her smiling face poking out from her headscarf, Attar became the first woman from Saudi Arabia to compete in track and field at the Olympics when she clocked 2 minutes, 44.95 seconds in her preliminary race.
“This is such a huge honor and an amazing experience, just to be representing the women,” Attar said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I know that this can make a huge difference.”
The 19-year-old Attar finished last in her heat. To her, the time wasn’t the point.
Her mother is American and her father is Saudi. She has dual citizenship, was born in California and runs track at Pepperdine University near Los Angeles.
Attar wanted to represent Saudi Arabia at the Olympics as a way of inspiring women.
“For women in Saudi Arabia, I think this can really spark something to get more involved in sports, to become more athletic,” she said. “Maybe in the next Olympics, we can have a very strong team to come.”
Making her Olympic debut three years after being forced to undergo gender tests, Caster Semenya of South Africa finished second in her 800 heat.
Semenya was sidelined for nearly a year while track and field’s governing body decided whether to allow her to compete after she won the 2009 world title at age 18. She was tested and eventually cleared to return to action in 2010, then was the runner-up at last year’s world championships.
Semenya carried South Africa’s flag at the opening ceremony in London and is a leading medal contender. She ran her heat in 2:00.71, behind the 2:00.47 run by Alysia Johnson Montano of the United States.
The rest of the Olympic action Wednesday:
The U.S. men’s volleyball team got off to a strong start at the London Olympics, but it’s headed home without a medal.
The defending Olympic champions lost 28-26, 25-20, 25-20 to Italy in the quarterfinals.
U.S. setter Donald Suxho bent over with his hands on his knees and shook his head as Italy celebrated the win at Earls Court. And after shaking hands with the Italians, the Americans turned to applaud the many U.S. fans in the crowd.
Dragan Travica and captain Cristian Savani each had four aces for Italy, which will face Brazil in Friday’s semifinals. Savani finished with 19 points.
Russia takes on Bulgaria in the other semi.
CYCLING - BMX
Two spectacular crashes marred the start of the BMX competition, and time trial world champion Caroline Buchanan of Australia and Raymon van der Biezen of the Netherlands posted the best times of the seeding runs.
On the challenging course sitting next to the London Velodrome, American rider Brooke Crain crashed in the home stretch in a section made of a succession of small jumps. She managed to get back on her bike to cross the finish line but officially was listed as not finishing. If she’s able to continue, she would be given the 16th and final seed.
Crain was a late replacement on the U.S. team for Arielle Martin, who was hospitalized after a crash during a final training run on July 30 in California.
Latvian rider Edzus Treimanis also went down on the track at the same spot, falling face first.
The U.S. was shut out of Olympic sailing medals for the first time since 1936 when women’s match racing skipper Anna Tunnicliffe was beaten in the quarterfinals by Finland.
Tunnicliffe, who was born in England and moved to the United States when she was 12, was the only remaining American with a chance for a medal.
While the Americans underperformed, the Australians continued to pile up victories.
The 49er crew of Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen sailed three laps of honor to collect the gold medal they had clinched two days earlier.
Middleweight Claressa Shields dominated Kazakhstan’s Marina Volnova in the semifinals of the first Olympic women’s tournament, earning a spot in the title bout against Russia’s Nadezda Torlopova.
After pounding away at the slower Volnova for most of the 29-15 fight, the 17-year-old Shields pounded her taped right fist against her own left shoulder and screamed with joy.
Shields is the last American boxer left in London after flyweight Marlen Esparza lost 10-8 to Chinese world champion Ren Cancan an hour earlier. Ren will fight Britain’s Nicola Adams for the flyweight title.
On the men’s side, Mongolia’s Munkh-Erdene Uranchimeg pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the tournament, stunning second-seeded light welterweight Tom Stalker of Britain with a 23-22 victory. Yamaguchi Falcao of Brazil also had a surprising victory, beating top-seeded Cuban light heavyweight Julio La Cruz 18-15.
The U.S. men’s team was eliminated with an 8-2 quarterfinal loss to unbeaten Croatia.
The Croats jumped to a 5-0 lead by halftime with ferocious defense on one end of the pool and efficient shooting on the other. The Americans clawed back to 5-2 halfway through the third quarter, but Miho Boskovic responded for Croatia with his second goal before Sandro Sukno added another with four seconds left in the period.
Croatia next faces Montenegro, which beat Spain 11-9 to reach its second straight Olympic semifinal. Italy plays gold medal-favorite Serbia in the other semi.
Italy upset three-time defending champion Hungary 11-9 to reach the final four.
Germany’s 500-meter K-4 team lost an Olympic final for the first time since the 1992 Barcelona Games, falling to a Hungarian quartet looking to spring an upset after second-place finishes at the last three Summer Games.
It also meant Hungary finished the first day of finals at the canoe sprint regatta with the upper hand over Germany in their head-to-head competition in the event’s medals table.
Hungary’s other gold came in the men’s 1,000-meter K-2, although there was a 20-second wait before the result of a photo finish with a fast-finishing Portugal was relayed to the teams and the crowd of about 20,000 at Dorney Lake.
Germany claimed its first gold of the competition when European champion Sebastian Brendel won the 1,000-meter C-1, and Eirik Veras Larsen of Norway produced a late surge to capture the men’s kayak 1,000 meters.
WRESTLING - FREESTYLE
Japan won a pair of women’s freestyle wrestling events, with Kaori Icho taking the 63-kilogram division and Hitomi Obara finishing on top of the 48-kg category.
Icho became the first Japanese woman to capture the same event in three straights Olympics. She beat Jing Ruixue of China 3-0, 2-0 to extend her winning streak to 72 matches.
Obara rallied to beat Mariya Stadnyk of Azerbaijan 0-4, 1-0, 2-0. Carol Huynh of Canada and Clarissa Chun won bronze, with Chun giving the U.S. its first wrestling medal of the London Games.
China’s Chen Ruolin led the women’s 10-meter platform preliminaries, with the teenager trying to add a gold medal in the individual event to the one she won in platform synchro.
Chen totaled 392.35 points during five rounds. She is the defending champion in the individual event, and won both 10-meter titles four years ago in Beijing when she was 15.
China has won five of six diving golds so far in London, including the women’s 10-meter synchronized title taken by Chen and Wang Hao. The country’s attempt to sweep all eight golds was spoiled when Ilya Zakharov of Russia won the men’s 3-meter springboard Tuesday.
ELSEWHERE IN LONDON
Argentina will meet the Netherlands in the women’s field hockey final. Argentina advanced with a 2-1 victory over Britain, and the Dutch topped New Zealand 3-1 in a penalty shootout after the teams were tied at 2 at the end of regulation. … The semifinals are set for men’s handball, with Hungary slated to face Sweden and France to take on Croatia on Friday. … Steve Guerdat of Switzerland, riding Nino des Buissonnets, won the gold for individual show jumping. Gerco Schroder of the Netherlands, riding London, beat Cian O’Connor of Ireland, on Blue Loyd 12, in a jump-off for silver. … China completed a sweep of all four Olympic table tennis titles with a 3-0 victory over South Korea in the men’s team final. China has won 24 of 28 gold medals since the sport entered the Olympic program in 1988. … Taekwondo golds were awarded to China’s Wu Jingyu (women’s 49-kg) and Spain’s Joel Gonzalez (men’s 58-kg).