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USA has big day on court, pitch and in pool

Michael Phelps isn't the only U.S. swimmer capable of setting a world record. In fact, Team USA has four more of them.
Beijing Olympics Basketball Men
Team USA's Dwyane Wade goes in for a dunk against China during the Americans' 101-70 victory in Beijing.Dusan Vranic / AP
/ Source: news services

The 'Redeem Team' didn't disappoint in their Olympic debut and Michael Phleps isn't the only U.S. swimmer capable of setting a world record.

The United States men's basketball team, led by 19 points from Dwayne Wade and 18 points from LeBron James, cruised to an easy 101-70 victory over China in one of the most anticipated events of the Beijing games.

Earlier Sunday, Phelps demolished his own world record to win a first Olympics gold in the quest for an unprecedented eight, but violence in west China and conflict in Georgia spoiled the party mood.

Phelps isn't the only U.S. swimmer capable of setting a world record. In fact, Team USA has four more of them.

The men's 400 freestyle relay team of Nathan Adrian, Cullen Jones, Ben Wildman-Tobriner and Matt Grevers set a world record during the Sunday evening swimming preliminaries. The new mark of 3 minutes, 12.23 seconds, erased the old mark of 3:12.46 set by the U.S. at the 2006 Pan Pacific championships in Victoria, British Columbia.

The U.S. will have to swim that fast to win the gold, too. It has not won the event at the Olympics since 1996, taking silver in 2000 and bronze in 2004.

The U.S. men's soccer team just missed out on what would've been a big upset on the pitch, faltering late against the Netherlands and drawing, 2-2.

The U.S. men’s volleyball team had a strong start, too, beating Venezuela 25-18, 25-18, 22-25, 21-25, 15-10 a day after the coach’s father-in-law was fatally stabbed at a popular Beijing tourist site.

Coach Hugh McCutcheon’s father-in-law, Todd Bachman, was fatally stabbed Saturday at the 13th-century Drum Tower. McCutcheon’s mother-in-law, Barbara Bachman, is in serious condition at a hospital.

McCutcheon’s wife is former Olympian Elisabeth Bachman McCutcheon, who played for the U.S. women’s team at the Athens Games.

“We really felt the loss as one of our own,” said U.S. captain Tom Hoff. “Maybe that’s why it hurts so much. It hit so close.”

Phelps, listening to hip-hop on headphones as he walked to the block, went on to win the 400 meters individual medley at China’s futuristic and full-to-capacity Water Cube. His time was 1.41 seconds quicker than a previous best he set just six weeks ago.

After the first race of a thrilling morning in the pool, Phelps raised his arms to savor triumph in what he calls his weakest event. He was watched by President George Bush and cheered by flag-waving compatriots and thousands of Chinese.

“I’m pretty happy with that ... it was all adrenaline,” said Phelps, calling a thumbs-up by Bush in the stands “pretty cool.”

“I tried to find my Mom but I couldn’t find her.”

Even if the lanky 23-year-old with the perfect swimming physique wins only half his eight race competitions, he will hold more Olympic gold medals than any other athlete.

But he looks in great shape to match his own six golds at Athens 2004 then maybe go one further than Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven wins at one Games.

And the Games’ Day Two was also spoiled by pre-dawn blasts and a shootout in Xinjiang, some 1,900 miles west of Beijing.

State media and an official said suspected Muslim separatists tossed homemade explosives into local government buildings.

Police shot dead five of the attackers. An ambush killed 16 police in the same region a week ago.

Beijing says it has foiled past plots to sabotage the Olympics by militants in Xinjiang. Critics accuse China of exaggerating the threat to justify repression of dissidents.

Georgia stays despite crisis
Beyond China, too, distant crises spoiled the Games’ intended spirit of international harmony.

Georgia’s team offered to withdraw over the conflict with Russia in South Ossetia. But President Mikheil Saakashvili sent a message overnight instructing them to stay “in the best interest of the country.”

After Phelps thrilled the Water Cube, Australia’s Stephanie Rice followed suit to smash the world record and win the same 400m individual medley event for women.

Park Tae-hwan won the men’s 400m freestyle to give South Korea a second gold while Zhang Lin became the first Chinese man to win an Olympic swimming medal with his silver.

The Netherlands took an unexpected gold in the women’s swimming 4x100m freestyle relay.

China came second in the medal table in Athens but aspires to outstrip the United States this time. As expected, given its strength in the first sports, China had taken an early lead with three golds versus the United States’ two by midday on Sunday.

Guo Wenjun gave the hosts their latest gold in the women’s 10m air pistol.

Recalling the high-profile doping cases of Athens, the International Olympic Committee ruled Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou could not compete in Beijing despite completing a ban.

In what the IOC called a “scandalous saga,” Thanou and fellow runner Costas Kenteris missed a drugs test on the eve of the Athens Games, overshadowing the opening.

Bush went to church and then met Chinese President Hu Jintao for private talks he has repeatedly said he uses to talk frankly about human rights. “I enjoy our conversations,” Bush said.

Hu thanked Bush for his fourth trip to China, the most by a sitting U.S. president. “This is a true testament to the importance you place on relations with China,” he said.