The US swimmers put the proper punctuation mark Saturday on their Olympic performance - a towering exclamation point. Indeed, it takes one word to sum up how the red, white, blue, and speedy did: Wow!
In the final two events in the electric International Aquatic Center, the 4x100 medley relay for the men - Lenny Krayzelburg, Ed Moses, Ian Crocker, Gary Hall - and women - B.J. Bedford, Megan Quann, Jenny Thompson, Dara Torres - each American team blazed to victory with world record marks. The women also scored a world mark in the 4x200 freestyle relay.
The fourth world record set by the Americans was by Tom Dolan in the 400-meter individual medley.
In addition to the world marks, which automatically are Olympic records, the US set six more Olympic marks, including Krayzelburg in both the 100 and 200-meter backstroke, Tom Malchow in the 200-meter butterfly, Misty Hyman in the 200-meter butterfly, and Brooke Bennett in the 800-meter freestyle. Bennett, who wiped out the Games mark set by legendary Janet Evans in 1988 in Seoul, couldn't contain her elation: "I'm so proud of myself."
It was a cavalcade of US excellence. The swimmers won 14 golds, 8 silvers, and 11 bronzes. Of the 96 medals available for the winning, the Americans glommed on to 33.
The Americans are used to winning. In a Top 10 ranking of nations that have made the biggest swimming medal haul in a single Olympics, the US appears eight times. In Atlanta 1996, the US won 26 medals, and in Barcelona 1992, 27.
Olympic swimming was far from being all about the US: Two Dutch swimmers were stunningly good. Inge de Bruijn won three golds, all in world record times. Pieter van den Hoogenband won two golds in world times, and added a bronze. No more tulip and windmill jokes. Think Dutch masters.
The much-ballyhooed Australian star Ian Thorpe acquitted himself well, despite being upset by Van den Hoogenband in the 200-meter freestyle. He set a world record in the 400-meter freestyle and was on relay teams that established two more. The "Thorpedo's" goal: to win more golds at one Olympics than the seven American Mark Spitz won in '72.
Unlikely. Improbable. But not impossible. The US men's soccer team, playing in its first Olympic quarterfinal, scored a goal in the 90th minute to tie Japan before advancing toward a medal with a 5-4 shootout victory. US substitute Sasha Victorine blasted his penalty kick past the desperate dive of goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki to propel the Americans into the semifinals.
Tennis stars Venus Williams and Monica Seles came to Australia seeking a gold medal. By late yesterday, only one of them could possibly accomplish that.
Seles and Williams, after winning their quarterfinal matches Sunday, must now meet in the semifinals. Seles jumped all over Dominique van Roost of Belgium in a 6-0, 6-2 victory. Williams, winner of 30 matches in a row, exacted revenge on the last woman to defeat her by beating fifth-seeded Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
Williams lost to Sanchez-Vicario at the French Open before launching her streak, which includes titles at Wimbledon and the US Open.
The winner of the Seles-Williams match moves on to the gold medal match. The loser plays for a bronze.
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