Today was an active and amazing day at the Olympics. The story of the day was the host nation. However, since this is the US, we'll start with a nod to the end of an all-time great career. As always, spoilers of NBC's primetime broadcast are here.
The End of an Era Michael Phelps competed in the Olympics for the last time, swimming the butterfly leg of the men's medley relay. The US has never lost this event, and it showed, as Phelps and freestyler Nathan Adrian pulled away from Japan to take the gold. Phelps ends his career with an unreal 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold. The next most golds anyone else has is 9: Larisa Latynina, Carl Lewis, Paavo Nurmi, and Mark Spitz. Olympic legends all, and Phelps just blows them away. Between the sheer quantity and thrills he produced, a salute to the amazing career of Michael Phelps.
Also in the pool, the US women also won the medley relay. Missy Franklin won her fourth gold of the Games, Alison Schmidt and Dana Vollmer their third, and Rebecca Soni her second. Sun Yang broke the world record in winning the 1500 freestyle, and the Dutch woman with the impossible to spell name added the 50 freestyle to her 100 freestyle victory.
The US finishes swimming having won an incredible 16 gold medals (half the golds available) and 30 total.
Union Jack on the Track The world's fastest woman was crowned today, but I doubt many in Olympic Stadium really cared after what they had witnessed the previous hour. First, Jessica Ennis added to her heptathlon lead from day one and won the gold in style, winning her 800 meter heat (American Hyleas Fountain had a disastrous javelin and withdrew from the 800 meters). Then a few minutes later, Greg Rutherford won the long jump for the host country (American Will Claye won bronze). With the crowd in a frenzy, the men's 10000 meters started. In with the usual mix of Kenyans and Ethopians were Brit Mo Farah and American Galen Rupp. With two laps to go, Farah took the lead, and held off the field on the final lap sprint to win yet another gold for the hosts. Rupp, Farah's training partner, had a fantastic finishing kick to take the silver, America's first medal in the 10000 since 1964.
After all that, it was time for the women's 100 meters. The start was the key. Shelley Ann Fraser-Pryce had the best one, and she held on to repeat as World's Fastest Woman, in a time of 10.75 seconds. Fraser-Pryce joins Gail Devers (1992 and 1996) and Wyomia Tyus (1964 and 1968) as the only repeat gold medalists in the women's 100. Carmelita Jeter took silver, and Veronica Campbell-Brown bronze. American Tianna Madison was 4th, and Alyson Felix 5th, but with a personal best time, a good sign for her for the 200.
The men's 100 meters had its first round without incident. Ditto the men's 400, except for LaShawn Merritt not finishing his heat with an injury.
Tennis Beatdown, Anyone? Serena Williams took it to Maria Sharapova in the gold medal match and did not let up, winning 6-0, 6-1. Remember, this isn't some dinky tournament and an unknown opponent. This is an Olympic final at tennis's most hallowed ground against a player with a career Grand Slam. Serena was just on another planet this week, and she adds to her legacy, become the second woman to earn a Golden Slam (with Steffi Graf).
That wasn't the only high point for Americans today in tennis. Serena partnered with her sister Venus to advance to the doubles final, and the Bryan brothers won the gold in men's doubles.
Team USA Survives Two days after the crushing of Nigeria, today's game against Lithuania was much different for USA basketball. Lithuania, who's mostly recognizable player is Linus Kleiza, played a great game, while the US struggled in their usual small lineup. Lithuania actually lead with about four minutes to play until LeBron took over late. The US eventually won 99-94. If this was the wake up call the US needed, it's good it came out in group play. The team will play Argentina on Monday in its final group game.
It wasn't a good day overall for our team sports. Both the men's water polo and volleyball teams suffered their first losses of the tournament. The volleyball team's loss was especially bad, as they blew a two sets to none lead to Russia. Both teams have qualified for the knockout round. However, the women's field hockey team lost to New Zealand, officially eliminating them.
Some Things Never Change If there is one constant in soccer, it's England/Great Britain losing on penalties. Today in the quarterfinals against South Korea, it happened again. One Brit had his shot saved, and all five Koreans hit theirs. South Korea will face Brazil in the semis, who beat Honduras 4-2 in a game marred by excessive cards given out by the ref. The other semi will be Mexico (who beat Senegal 4-2 in extra time) and Japan (3-0 winners over Egypt).
This is going to be an extra long recap apparently, so turn to page 2 for the rest of today's action.
Decided by the Blink of an Eye At regular speed, it sure looked like Nicola Spirig of Switzerland and Lisa Norden of Sweden hit the tape together at the end of the women's triathlon. The judges looked at the photo though and declared Spirig the winner, even though both were credited with the same time. I still can't believe it could even be determined which hit the line first, and that it wasn't declared a dead heat.
Other US Medalists While the US has earned the majority of its medals so far in swimming, there are other athletes getting it done is less hyped venues. Today, Jamie Gray won gold in the 50 meter rifle three positions event (oh, the jokes that can be made from that). The US women's pursuit team won silver today, a game effort considered Great Britain has made the cycling velodrome their personal playground. The Brits easily won the gold medal. The US added bronzes in the men's fours rowing event, and in the women's team epee, taking the latter in a sudden death tiebreakers with Russia. USA! USA!
Oh Canada! Our neighbors from the North had a respectable seven medals going into today, but hadn't yet reached the top step of the podium. That changed in women's trampoline, where Rosie MacLennan defeated the favored Chinese to win gold. With a tight race between the US and China for most golds, thanks Canada for doing us a solid and keeping the Chinese from getting this one.
Today in Handball In the Iceland-France game, I saw the greatest handball save of my young handball watching career. France had a fast break, but instead of chucking the ball, the player decided to almost lob it in. The Iceland goalie, expecting a chuck, dived and got a piece of it, but not enough to deflect it away from goal. The goalie got up and just kept the ball out of the net as it was about to fall over the line. This save helped Iceland win a very tight game 30-29 and remain unbeaten. Croatia also remained unbeaten by easily defeating Denmark 32-21.
Medal Count Update Team USA remains just ahead of China, 54 medals to 53, and 26 to 25. We may have crushed swimming, but China is just a machine in things like badminton and table tennis. Great Britain, meanwhile, just keeps coming. They're up to 14 gold medals and 29 total. Both of those rank third. Russia (28) and Japan (24) round out the top five in total medals. Props to Guatemala, who picked up their first ever Olympic medal, a silver in race walking.
On Tap Tomorrow Only the most hyped event of the Games: the Men's 100 Meter Dash. If all goes well in the semis, everyone should be there: Bolt. Blake. Gatlin. Gay. The most electric 10 seconds of the Olympics will be at around 4:50 eastern tomorrow. Also awards medals in track tomorrow: women's marathon, women's triple jump, men's hammer throw, women's 400 meters, and men's steeplechase.
At around 9 am eastern is the men's singles final in tennis. Roger Federer and Andy Murray meet again just weeks after Federer's victory in the Wimbledon final. Think that will be an incredible atmosphere?
Gymnastics begins the event finals, with the men's floor and pommel horse and the women's vault. Knockout play begins in women's water polo with the quarterfinals. Team USA faces Italy. Women's beach volleyball also has its quarterfinal matches. Diving awards its first individual medals in women's springboard (I like the Chinese divers in that one). The men's omnium, cycling's version of the decathlon, also concludes.
Elsewhere, wrestling and (hah) synchronized swimming start up, women's boxing officially debuts, and sailing awards its first medals in classes I don't understand. Finally, fencing says goodbye for these Olympics, as does badminton, which will then go off to think about how it made itself a laughing stock.
The middle Saturday of the Games is always active, and today was no exception. What will tomorrow bring?
Olympics Day 8 Recap