The United States’ women’s 4x400-meter relay team from left, Francena McCorory, Allyson Felix, Sanya Richards-Ross and Deedee Trotter, celebrate after winning the gold medal Saturday.
NBC GIVES INTO PRESSURE, WILL SHOW CLOSING CEREMONY LIVE ONLINE:
NEW YORK — NBC acknowledged some critics Saturday in announcing it changed plans and will stream today’s Olympic closing ceremony live online.
Today’s ceremony from London will still air on a tape-delayed basis on NBC in prime time. For the opening ceremony, NBC took some heat for not making the event available to anyone in the United States for hours after the fact.
The opening ceremony was watched by 40.7 million people, a bigger audience than for the Grammys and Oscars this year.
NBC has since found that streaming live all of the Olympic sports events online has not cut into its prime-time audience, which has been unexpectedly bigger than the 2008 games in Beijing.
“Going into the opening ceremony, we didn’t have a sense for what our ratings would be and what streaming would or wouldn’t do to our broadcasts,” said NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus. “But we think we’ve learned enough and have promised to innovate and continually evolve our broadcast coverage.”
NBC stressed that today’s stream was an experiment and doesn’t necessarily mean the same policy would hold true for the 2014 winter games in Sochi, Russia. The stream is available to cable and satellite customers who go to the NBCOlympics.com website.
Today’s ceremony has been described as a music-filled after-party that will feature the Spice Girls, The Who, George Michael, Muse and others in a show that will include performances of some 30 British hit singles over five decades.
LONDON — By the time Allyson Felix was done with her part, her third gold medal of the Olympics was all but hanging around her neck.
Staking the U.S. team to more than a 2-second lead at the halfway point Saturday night, then watching Sanya Richards-Ross bring home the blowout victory, Felix added the 4x400-meter relay gold to the titles she won earlier in the 4x100 relay and 200-meter sprint.
“By the time I got the stick,” Richards-Ross said, “it was basically a victory lap.”
The United States finished in 3 minutes, 16.87 seconds — good for a 3.36-second rout over Russia, the biggest margin in the final of the long relay at the Olympics since East Germany beat the U.S. by 3.58 seconds in 1976.
Jamaica took third in 3:20.95.
“I think we were all pumped before this race,” Felix said. “There was a lot of emotion. We just wanted to close it out.”
The U.S. extended its Olympic winning streak in this event to five straight, dating to 1996.
Felix became the first U.S. woman to win three golds in Olympic track since 1988, when Florence Griffith-Joyner won the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay in Seoul.
Felix’s victories came nearly a quarter-century later and half a world away, though she’s now in the same stratosphere with some of the U.S. greats.
“London is very special to me,” said Felix, who now has a total of six Olympic medals.
The one she really wanted, of course, was the gold for the 200-meter sprint that eluded her in Athens and Beijing. After that, everything else was gravy in Britain, though Felix was hardly going through the motions in her last race of the games.
Handed about a 10-meter lead by teammate DeeDee Trotter, Felix ran the second leg in 47.8 seconds — 1.8 seconds faster than Russia’s Antonina Krivoshapka — to put a huge swath of track between her and the Russians before she handed off to Francena McCorory.
McCorory expanded the lead by another .49 seconds, then delivered it to Richards-Ross, who was basically running alone, loosely holding onto the baton as she breezed across the finish line.
All she had to do was pace herself and make sure she didn’t fall.
“It is a bit challenging to run at the front because you don’t want to run too fast and mess it up,” Richards-Ross said after earning her fifth career medal.
When it was over, Richards-Ross tucked the stick under her arm and started clapping. Then, one-by-one, Felix, Trotter and McCorory came over and the whole group embraced, huddling with their arms around each others’ shoulders. Also receiving gold will be Keshia Baker and Diamond Dixon, who ran in the preliminaries.
“It’s unbelievable,” Felix said. “I think about how I ended in Beijing, just feeling discouraged there. Four years later to have all this happen, to really accomplish every goal that I set out, is such a blessing.”
It marked yet another success for a U.S. track team that had pegged 30 medals as the goal to reach at the London Olympics. After Felix and her teammates were finished, the men’s 4x100 relay team and high jumper Brigetta Barrett both took silver to lift the U.S. team to 29. The marathon closes out the track schedule Sunday, with 2004 silver medalist Meb Keflezighi in the race.
“I think the pressure was on to go out and do what we are capable of doing,” Trotter said of the 30-medal goal. “I think we finally hit the mark this time. We hit the center of the target. We got it done.”
The track meet could have been an even more rousing success for the United States had the men won more than the one medal they took in the 100, 200 and 400 — events they dominated for decades, until Usain Bolt came around.
But that’s not Felix’s fault.
And she’ll leave London having accomplished the same things Bolt did at these games: Three gold medals and one world record. Felix got hers (40.82 seconds) Friday night as part of the 4x100 relay team. Bolt got his in Saturday night’s men’s 4x100 (36.84).
Felix does, however, have one loss at these Olympics — her fifth-place finish in the 100 meters to open the track meet. That was the race she qualified for after finishing in a dead heat for third at Olympic trials, then earning the spot when her teammate, Jeneba Tarmoh, dropped out of a run-off.
Felix said she used the 100 for tuneup purposes. It turned out to be quite a good use of her time.
The 26-year-old has dabbled in the 100 and 400 over her career, which made her that rare runner who could help her team in both relays. A bit exhausting to run on back-to-back nights, but a chance to pick up more hardware, as well — and anyone who knows America’s history in the 4x400 knows there’s a very good chance the hardware can be of the golden variety. The U.S. has won the 4x400 at every Olympics and world championship since 2007.
“That’s the Dream Team, all day,” said Trotter, who also took bronze in the 400 meters.
Some track touts, knowing that Jamaica’s Novlene Williams-Mills had handed Richards-Ross her only loss in the 400 this year, predicted Jamaica — or maybe Russia — might give the United States a run in this race.
Sounded good in theory.
“On paper, it seemed like it was going to be a great race,” Richards-Ross said. “But by the time I got the stick, we had already dominated the race.”
It’s a great moment for the 27-year-old Jamaican native, as well.
Richards-Ross has dual citizenship and her parents moved to the U.S. when she was 12, in part because there were better training opportunities available in the States.
These days, she’s married to Jacksonville Jaguars defensive back Aaron Ross, who has two Super Bowl rings at home that will now share space with a few more gold medals. Richards-Ross has fought on and off the last five or six years with a hard-to-diagnose illness that causes fatigue and skin lesions. She fought with her own emotions after a disappointing bronze medal in the 400 in 2008.
No real stress this time, though, and the U.S. women hardly looked winded as they danced and circled the track with American flags held high behind their heads.
DAY 15 ROUNDUP:
LONDON — Three more things to know about Saturday, Day 15 of the London Olympics:
—Boudia wins diving title as United States closes in on medals table win.
—Mexico upsets Brazil to win men’s soccer gold.
—The End: Coach K says gold-medal game will be final one as U.S. coach.
Team USA clinched the top spot in the medals table for the fifth consecutive Summer Games, helped by David Boudia’s victory in the men’s 10-meter platform for the country’s first gold in diving since 2000.
Boudia scored 568.65 points in the six-dive final, edging Qiu Bo of China by 1.8 points. Tom Daley of Britain settled for the bronze.
Mexico earned its first Olympic gold medal in men’s soccer and left Brazil wondering if it will ever be able to add the title to its long list of triumphs.
Oribe Peralta scored 29 seconds into the final at Wembley Stadium and added another goal in the second half, leading Mexico to the 2-1 upset.
Hulk scored for Brazil in injury time, but Oscar missed a header in the final seconds to waste the last chance for a comeback in front of 86,162 fans.
“Mexico will be celebrating on the streets,” coach Luis Fernando Tena said. “It is a great honor for a coach to see his players singing the national anthem with gold medals around their necks. It’s a very important moment for Mexican football. It’s a great moment for us.”
The U.S. men’s basketball team will play Spain for the Olympic title on Sunday, and Mike Krzyzewski told The Associated Press it will be his final game as the national coach.
When asked if he was sure, Krzyzewski didn’t hesitate before again saying, “yes,” this will be his last game.
With a win, Krzyzewski would join Henry Iba (1964, 1968) as the only U.S. coach to lead the Americans to gold medals in consecutive Olympics.
The rest of the Olympic action Saturday:
WOMEN'S 800-METER FINAL:
Caster Semenya knew she had blown it by starting out too slowly in her first Olympic final.
She knew her coach was going to criticize her. Based on her experience over the last three, difficult years, she also expected some unkind speculation about her performance in the 800 meters.
But she cherished her silver medal all the same. Three years after being forced to undergo gender tests after winning the world title in a stunningly fast 1 minute, 55.45 seconds at age 18, Semenya can introduce herself as an Olympic medalist.
Semenya was sidelined for nearly a year while track and field’s governing body decided whether to allow her to compete. She was tested and eventually cleared to return to action in 2010, then was the runner-up at last year’s world championships.
She came to the London Games as a leading medal contender in the 800 and was even given the honor of carrying South Africa’s flag into the opening ceremony.
She slipped into last place at the start of the final and, even after a fast finishing kick from 250 meters out, was too late to catch world champion Mariya Savinova, who clocked 1:56.19 to win gold.
“Unfortunately it was too late. I’m happy with the silver but I know the coach (Maria Mutola) is not really happy,” Semenya said. “I tried hard to get back but the body wasn’t really on fire today. But I had to fight.”
It wasn’t her plan to trail at the back, but she didn’t panic when she found herself in trouble.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re back or front,” she said. “What matters is how you finish your race.”
That’s not how some critics saw it. One TV pundit speculated Semenya didn’t go all out for gold because she didn’t want to create any controversy.
Semenya bristled when the question was put to her later.
“The plan was, like I said, to win a gold,” she said. “I just made a mistake. A late kick.”
Semenya doesn’t put much importance on what is written or said about her by people outside her support network, something she had to learn the hard way. It seemed nothing was off limits when her intimate details were being debated and discussed in the world media before she was cleared to return to competition.
Now she has Mutola, who retired in 2008 with an Olympic gold medal and three world titles to her credit, in her corner. And on Saturday night, her parents, Jacob and Dorcas, were on hand for the first time to watch her compete at a major international meet.
The 80,000-seat stadium, packed with people cheering loudly on a night when Usain Bolt helped Jamaica set a world record in the 4x100-meter relay, had to be daunting for the couple from a small, rural village in South Africa’s northern Limpopo province. Judging by the way she started, it was also daunting for their daughter. But the way she finished was more impressive.
“For me, I feel very happy. I know my parents are waiting for me, out there watching me,” Semenya said. “I just have to make them proud.”
Semenya finished a second behind Savinova, who also beat her at last year’s world championships in Daegu. But her time of 1:57.23 was her best this season.
She flexed her arms in a muscular pose when her time flashed up on the screen. Then she ran around the track with a South African flag until she was stopped by an official near the start for the 100 meters — there was a medal presentation going on for the women’s hammer.
Not long after, it was her turn to step onto the podium. After being presented with her medal, she flashed a big smile.
“I feel very proud,” she said. “Yes, I feel confident. I know I haven’t had too good a season the previous two years but I think we’re getting there now.
“I’m very happy with silver at my first Olympics. Back on the podium. For me it’s a successful career.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Lamine Diack, the president of the international athletics federation, was asked about Semenya’s career since her return from her tumultuous break.
“She’s carried on. We’ve worked together on the problems she’s had, and tried to find solutions,” Diack said. “And now she’s at the world level and trying to beat the others. I think she’s doing all she can to win. This is now the life she’s living — she’s an athlete competing like any other.”
Sebastian Coe, a British distance running great and the leader of the organizing committee for the London Games, was warmer in his recognition of Semenya, saying he was impressed with her commitment.
“She’s a phenomenal runner,” Coe said. “She’s committed to her sport, and she brings great dignity to it.”
Now 21 and without any impediments to competition, Semenya knows her Olympic destiny is in her hands.
“For now, I just have to concentrate so I can win the next Olympics,” she said. “I see a pretty good future.”
Together with Mutola, she said: “We just have to focus on the career and forget about the past.”
“I think we’re going to be better in the future,” she said. “That’s what I will say for now.”
Jaqueline Carvalho had 18 points and Brazil beat the United States in four sets to stop the Americans from winning their first Olympic gold medal in women’s volleyball.
Brazil became the third team to repeat as gold medalist. The Soviet Union won in 1968 and 1972, while Cuba won three straight starting with the 1992 Barcelona Games.
American star Destinee Hooker was held to 14 points.
Castro and Claudino celebrated the victory by leaping into the official’s chair, and Brazil’s coaches rushed to pile on the other players. Later, the Brazilians danced into the medal ceremony.
Bantamweight Luke Campbell won Britain’s first Olympic boxing gold medal in his division since 1908, dramatically knocking down rival John Joe Nevin of Ireland midway through the third round of a 14-11 victory.
China’s Zou Shiming, light welterweight Roniel Iglesias, middleweight Ryota Murata and Ukrainian heavyweight Oleksandr Usyk also won their divisions.
Shiming defended his light flyweight gold medal from Beijing with a 13-10 victory over Thailand’s Kaeo Pongprayoon, who angrily protested the result.
Iglesias beat Ukraine’s Denys Berinchyk 22-15 for Cuba’s first boxing gold in London after failing to win gold in Beijing.
Murata narrowly won the second boxing gold in Japan’s Olympic history, beating Brazil’s Esquiva Falcao 14-13 on the strength of a two-point holding penalty against Falcao in the final round.
Usyk capped the night with a 14-11 gold-medal victory over Clemente Russo of Italy, celebrating with a nimble Cossack dance in the center of the ring.
Tamara Echegoyen, Angela Pumariega and Sofia Toro of Spain won the Olympic gold medal in women’s match racing, thanks in part to a boat-handling error by Australia that swept its skipper into the water.
With the best-of-five match tied at one, the boats were sailing nearly side-by-side downwind in the third race in big waves on Weymouth Bay when the Australian crew lost control and its boat rolled on its side. Skipper Olivia Price was swept out of the back of the boat and her crew had to pick her up before continuing.
Spain won that race by 1 minute, 1 second, but the 20-year-old Price and her crew won the fourth race to force a deciding match.
In another mistake, Price was assessed a penalty in Race 5 for a right-of-way violation and Spain sailed ahead to win the gold, leaving the Aussies with the silver.
Britain’s Ed McKeever won the men’s 200-meter kayak sprint in its Olympic debut, living up to his billing as “Usain Bolt on Water.”
McKeever powered his way to victory in 36.246 seconds in front of British Prime Minister David Cameron and his family. Spain’s Saul Craviotto Rivero was second and Canada’s Mark de Jonge beat France’s Maxim Beaumont to bronze by three-hundreths of a second.
Ukraine’s Yuri Cheban (men’s singles 200-meter canoe sprint) and New Zealand’s Lisa Carrington (women’s singles 200-meter kayak sprint) also won gold. Yury Postrigay and Alexander Dyachenko of Russia took the men’s 200 kayak sprint.
CYCLING - MOUNTAIN BIKE
Julie Bresset picked up the victory at her first Olympics, rolling through the English countryside and waving the French flag as she finished.
Bresset dominated the picturesque course at Hadleigh Farm. She took advantage of a mistake by defending gold medalist Sabine Spitz of Germany to build a massive lead, then rolled through the last of six laps all alone.
The 23-year-old Bresset started blowing kisses to cheering fans on the final straight. Spitz wound up with the silver medal, and Georgia Gould of the United States claimed bronze.
It was only the second Olympic medal in mountain biking for the Americans, who are credited with developing the sport in the 1970s. Susan DeMattei captured bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
GYMNASTICS - RHYTHMIC
Evgeniya Kanaeva became the first rhythmic gymnast to win two Olympic all-around titles, defending her gold medal from Beijing.
Russia has captured the last four Olympic individual titles. It also has a chance for another four-peat in Sunday’s group event, too.
Kanaeva posted the highest score in three of the four events and finished with 116.90 points. That was more than two points ahead of teammate Daria Dmitrieva. Liubou Charkashnya of Belarus won the bronze medal.
WRESTLING - FREESTYLE
Artur Taymazov of Uzbekistan won his third straight Olympic wrestling gold in the men’s 120-kilogram division, beating Georgia’s Davit Modzmanashvili in the final.
Taymazov joins Alexander Medved of the former Soviet Union and Russian great Alexander Karelin as the only male wrestlers to win gold medals in three straight games.
Azerbaijan won two titles, with Sharif Sharifov grabbing the gold in men’s 84-kg freestyle and Toghrul Asgarov taking the men’s 60-kg freestyle.
American Coleman Scott won a bronze medal in the 60-kg competition.
ELSEWHERE IN LONDON
Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago won the men’s javelin. … Norway retained its Olympic title in women’s team handball by beating Montenegro 26-23. … Germany defeated the Netherlands 2-1 to win its second straight men’s field hockey title and spoil a bid for a Dutch double in the sport. … Russia collected two gold medals in race-walk events, with Elena Lashmanova winning the women’s 20-kilometer and Sergei Kirdyapkin taking the men’s 50k. Lashmanova broke the world record with a time of 1 hour, 25 minutes, 2 seconds. … David Svoboda of the Czech Republic won the men’s modern pentathlon. … Taekwondo golds went to Italy’s Carlo Molfetta (men’s plus 80-kilogram) and Serbia’s Milica Mandic (women’s plus 67-kg). It was Serbia’s first gold of the games.