The Olympics: Tuesday

The "Thorpedo" returns, there's no gold-medal repeat for U.S. women gymnasts and the top American rival to Marion Jones is out.



Kerry Lauerman
September 19, 2000 6:28PM (UTC)

Aussie Ian Thorpe rebounded Tuesday from his loss Monday to "Flying Dutchman" Pieter van den Hoogenband in the 200-meter freestyle to lead his team to the 800-meter freestyle relay gold. It was the third gold medal for the "Thorpedo," and the team announced he'll have a chance for a fourth beginning Friday, when he swims on the medley relay team. The Americans, historically dominant in the relays, settled for silver. (The U.S. had won gold in 10 of the last 12 Games.)

Other swimming gold went to American Tom Malchow, who set an Olympic record (1:55.18) in the 200-meter butterfly, and Ukraine's Yana Klochkova won her second gold of the Games in taking the 200-meter individual medley. Van den Hoogenband, meanwhile, lowered the world record in the semifinals of the 100-meter freestyle (47.84), leaving his competitors scratching their swim caps. "I don't know if anyone can catch him," said another favorite, Gary Hall Jr. of Phoenix.

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Tuesday night in Sydney, a man was arrested after allegedly stealing the passes of some of Australia's swim stars (including Thorpe), copying them and then apparently using them to gain access to the Olympic Village. Thorpe and others were kept from the Olympic Village while security officers tracked the pilferer. Question: Could anyone in Australia pass for the 6-foot-5 Thorpe, whose shoe size (17) is as famous as any Romanian gymnast?

For whom the Bela tolls
The U.S. women's gymnastics team failed to medal Tuesday, finishing fourth behind gold medalist Romania, Russia and China. The U.S. finish will surely disappoint the throngs enamored with the "Magnificent Seven" that captured gold in 1996, and may finally push off center stage the creepy Bela Karolyi, who has made much of how U.S. gymnastics leaders lured him out of retirement to try and turn the flailing U.S. team into champions. Alas, it was not to be. The Comaneci-Retton-Strugg coach has avoided much of a backlash over his coaching style (aka "heckling") because he kept churning out prize-winning pixies. Now, even the pixies are biting back. "He takes the credit when we do good, and blames everyone else when we do bad," said U.S. team member Jamie Dantzscher Tuesday night. "It's so not fair."

It is so not fair. Then again, unfortunately, it's the oppressors who seem to regularly churn out teen gym queens; Karolyi did it for the Americans, ever so briefly, and now the Romanian system (which he built) is again firmly on top. In a New York Times Magazine article this month, a 13-year-old member of Romania's gymnastics factory put it this way: "In the United States they do [gymnastics] only out of pleasure. Here we do it for work. Other children have a childhood, time for playing games. We don't have time for this."

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Jones' toughest sprint challenger out
American Inger Miller, citing a severely strained left hamstring, told Sports Illustrated that she has pulled out of the women's 100-meter dash, and is iffy for both the 200-meter and the 4-by-100-meter relay. Miller was considered the greatest challenge to the favored Marion Jones in both sprints. The two have raced each other since they were California schoolgirls, but Miller hasn't won a race in more than 10 years, when Jones was a high school freshman and Miller was a senior.

U.S. team whiffs
The U.S. women's softball team had its 112-game winning streak broken by Japan 2-1 after two errors in the 11th inning by its voluable leader, Dot Richardson. The loss, however, doesn't hurt the heavily favored U.S. team's hopes: The top four in the eight-team tournament advance to the medal round. Richardson, the orthopedic surgeon and softball star, and her team, ubiquitous in Atlanta in 1996, were never able to generate quite the profile for the sport many had expected -- especially compared with, say, the U.S. women's soccer team.

Yawn
The U.S. men's basketball "Dream Team" beat Italy, 93-61. Vince Carter led with 13.

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What's with the Williams-bashing?
The tennis events began Tuesday, with American Monica Seles breezing through the first round and top American prospect Todd Martin getting bounced. But the real excitement seemed to come from John McEnroe, whose mouth traversed the time difference from London to trash the Williams sisters in the Sunday Telegraph, calling the two tennis players "cold as ice" and "disrespectful."

McEnroe seemed particularly peeved that Serena Williams had said she would like to compete in a men's tournament. "Do women golfers say they could go out and beat Tiger Woods; do women boxers think they could knock Lennox Lewis out?" McEnroe asked -- reiterating that he had not challenged either Williams to a tennis match. He seemed most angry about his perception that the two are just not nice enough. "Would it kill them to say hello to people in the locker room? Is it that hard?"

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Venus Williams begins play Wednesday.

The medal count

1. United States 7 (gold) 6 (silver) 5 (bronze) 18 (total)

2. Australia 6 5 6 17

3. China 6 2 7 15

4. France 5 6 2 13

5. Japan 3 3 1 7

6. Italy 3 2 3 8

7. Holland 3 1 1 5

8. Russia 2 4 3 9

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9. Germany 2 3 2 7

10. Ukraine 2 3 0 5

11. Bulgaria 2 1 1 4

11. Romania 2 1 1 4

13. Turkey 2 0 0 2

14. South Korea 1 4 3 8

15. Great Britain 1 3 2 6

16. Switzerland 1 2 1 4

17. Cuba 1 1 2 4

18. Hungary 1 1 0 2

19. Czech Republic 1 0 2 3

20. Canada 1 0 1 2

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20. Spain 1 0 1 2

20. Sweden 1 0 1 2

23. Croatia 1 0 0 1

23. Lithuania 1 0 0 1

23. Mexico 1 0 0 1

26. Slovakia 0 3 1 4

27. Belarus 0 1 2 3

28. Brazil 0 1 1 2

28. Greece 0 1 1 2

28. North Korea 0 1 1 2

31. Taiwan 0 1 0 1

31. Yugoslavia 0 1 0 1

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33. Belgium 0 0 2 2

33. Costa Rica 0 0 2 2

33. Indonesia 0 0 2 2

36. Estonia 0 0 1 1

36. Georgia 0 0 1 1

36. India 0 0 1 1

36. Kyrgyzstan 0 0 1 1

36. Latvia 0 0 1 1

36. Portugal 0 0 1 1

36. South Africa 0 0 1 1

36. Thailand 0 0 1 1


Kerry Lauerman

Kerry Lauerman is Salon's Editor in Chief. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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