The records, the medals. They just keep piling up.
Michael Phelps? Yeah, him, too.
The most dominant force thus far at these Olympics is the Big Red Machine known as the Chinese delegation.
By adding three golds, a silver and two bronzes to their collection Monday, China leads the pack with 14 total medals. Nine of those are gold.
To appreciate how impressive those numbers are, consider:
- The United States has the second-most medals with 12. None of the other 203 delegations have won as many medals of any color as China has won of the very best shade.
- No other country has won more than four golds. China has won that many in weightlifting alone.
- China has had nine different gold winners. The U.S. has only three golds, and two are by Phelps.
He’s trying for eight and so far has looked up to the challenge, setting world records in both his finals. While anchorman Jason Lezak was the star of the 400 freestyle relay, Phelps still set an American record with his opening leg, then he returned to the Water Cube eight hours later and set an Olympic record in a preliminary heat of the 200-meter butterfly.
Day 3 of the Beijing Games went off under better weather — hardly any rain, with the bonus of Sunday’s rain rinsing away some of the pollution.
But another kind of dark cloud appeared. Drugs.
Maria Isabel Moreno, a three-time national cycling champion from Spain, became the first athlete kicked out of the Beijing Olympics for doping after testing positive for EPO, a blood-boosting hormone that enhances endurance and has been at the center of numerous cycling scandals in recent years.
She was tested in the athletes’ village July 31 and moved out the same day before learning the result, the International Olympic Committee said. She was to have competed in two races here. Instead, she might be barred from the 2012 games, too.
If Phelps wins seven or eight gold medals and gets a $1 million bonus from Speedo, he’ll need to spend a chunk on Lezak.
Lezak dove in second to 100 star Alain Bernard of France. He was still trailing with about 25 meters to go, but zoomed to the wall first — 0.08 second ahead of Bernard.
Phelps threw his arms up and began hollering with the joy of a lottery winner. He sort of is, considering the odds the Americans faced, from Phelps finishing his leadoff lap in second place to Lezak trailing Bernard after the final turn, and considering the history — and big bucks — on the line.
The Americans finished in 3:08.24, a touch under 4 seconds faster than the world record set the night before by their qualifying crew.
“Unbelievable,” Phelps said. “Jason’s last 10 or 15 meters were incredible.”
Lezak covered his lap in 46.06, the fastest relay leg in history though it doesn’t count as an official record. Phelps’ 47.51 does go into the record books as a U.S. best.
“A fingertip did the victory,” said Amaury Leveaux, one of the French swimmers. “It is nothing.”
Katie Hoff knows exactly how bummed the French are.
She built a big lead in the 400 freestyle, but touched 0.07 after Britain’s Rebecca Adlington. After two of her five individual races, Hoff has a silver and a bronze — the amount she expected, but not necessarily the right color.
“I got a bronze yesterday and a silver this morning. If I keep climbing at this pace, I’ll be happy,” said Hoff, who has three more individual events, plus a relay.
In other morning action, American Christine Magnuson finished second in the 100-meter butterfly; American Brendan Hansen had the agony of finishing fourth in the 100-meter backstroke and the added disappointment of losing his world record to winner Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima; and Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe set a world record in the 100-meter backstroke semifinals, taking down the mark set this summer by American Natalie Coughlin.
At night, Italy’s Federica Pellegrini set a world record in the 200 freestyle preliminaries.
Phelps also found time Monday to advance to the finals of the 200 free. A victory would give Phelps his ninth career gold medal, tying him with four others including Mark Spitz and track star Carl Lewis, for most Olympic golds.
In one of the last events of the day, Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers beat Switzerland's Sascha Heyer and Patrick Heuscher, 21-15, 21-10 in beach volleyball. The 2007 world champions had lost their first Olympic match, but evened their record to 1-1.
It sounds like the opening round of a major: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and the Williams sisters advanced.
Nadal won his Olympic singles debut, beating Italy’s Potito Starace 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, and Federer beat Russia’s Dmitry Tursunov 6-4, 6-2, then received congratulations from one of the spectators — LeBron James.
Venus Williams, playing her first match since winning Wimbledon, beat Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky 6-3, 6-2 and showed no sign of the knee injury that sidelined her in recent weeks.
Serena Williams finished out her weather-suspended match against Belarus’ Olga Govortsova.
Her sister, seeded fourth, won all four games when her match resumed after an overnight rain interruption, and she beat Olga Govortsova of Belarus, 6-3, 6-1.
A day after the U.S. men routed China, the women won by an even more lopsided score.
Tina Thompson powered a 23-0 run in the first quarter that sent the Americans well on their way to a 108-63 victory. By the time Kobe Bryant and the rest of the men’s team settled into their seats at the end of the first quarter the U.S. was up 33-11.
“We were really locked in and focused,” U.S. co-captain Katie Smith said. “We didn’t want to let them stick around. We wanted to let the crowd know that we were ready to play. You don’t want to play around with teams, if you have a chance to make a statement and put them away early you do that.”
The U.S. seemed focused to play the host country after losing to them in the gold medal game of the Good Luck Beijing tournament in April. However, that U.S. team only had four players from the current Olympic team on it.
China figured to be the toughest test for the Americans in their pool. Up next will be a matchup with Mali (0-2), which lost Hamchetou Maiga of the Houston Comets to an ankle injury in the third quarter of a 81-47 loss to the Czechs.
Don’t mess with Chinese weightlifters. Chen Yanqing broke two Olympic records en route to her second straight gold medal in the women’s 58-kilogram category, making the host country 3-for-3 thus far.
“In 2004, I won the gold medal for myself. Today, I won it for all my supporters and fans,” the 29-year-old said, revealing that she almost quit the sport three times.
Later in the day, Zhang Xiangxiang won the men’s 62-kilogram division, upping China to 4-for-4.
After the medal ceremony, Zhang got down on his knees and bowed to the ecstatic home crowd. It was his second Olympic medal, after winning bronze in Sydney in another division.
“I’ve been waiting for this gold medal for eight years,” Zhang said. “This time on the stage has been a perfect ending to my career.”
The U.S. women’s team lost to Cuba in three sets. The good news: Barbara Bachman, the mother of 2004 Olympian Elisabeth Bachman McCutcheon and the mother-in-law of U.S. men’s coach Hugh McCutcheon, has had her condition upgraded to stable after being stabbed by the attacker who also killed her husband and then himself.
U.S. setter Lindsey Berg said she wasn’t sure if the tragedy played into Monday’s loss, but said “it has been an emotionally draining 48 hours.”
“We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of assistance and generosity that we have received and hope to convey our appreciation to everyone who has supported us and kept us in their thoughts and prayers,” the McCutcheons wrote in an open letter.
A fluke of a draw produced a rematch of last year’s featherweight world championship finals. Speed and savvy produced a different outcome, with Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko beating Albert Selimov of Russia 14-7.
American Raynell Williams easily won his opener 9-1 over Italy’s Alessio di Savino, improving the U.S. team to 3-1 before lightweight Sadam Ali’s evening bout.
Alexey Tishchenko, Russia’s gold-medal featherweight in Athens, opened his attempt to add a lightweight gold to his collection with a 10-2 win over Tunisia’s Saifeddine Nejmaoui.
Corey Cogdell, a 21-year-old Alaskan, won a four-way shoot-off for bronze in women’s trap shooting. Finland’s Satu Makela-Nummela hit an Olympic-record 21 targets to take the gold.
Cogdell was the youngest shooter in the finals. She finished 50th at last year’s world championships. What foes didn’t realize is that she’s honed her aim by having grown up hunting for dinner as a kid in rugged wilderness.
“There are similarities between shooting in the wild and at competitions,” she said. “Dove hunting definitely helps here because the target presentations are similar.”
The American women’s eight crew is headed to the finals after winning its heat. The men’s eight was second in its heat, dropping it into a second-chance race Tuesday in hopes of making the final; three guys are back from the crew that won the first U.S. gold medal in 40 years in that event at Athens.
In whitewater slalom singles, 19-year-old Benn Fraker finished 10th and advanced to the semifinals, but 29-year-old Scott Parsons missed a gate at the end of a strong run and was 20th in the single kayak and is done. Parsons was America’s best hope for a whitewater medal in the K-1, or one-man kayak class, which has historically been dominated by Europeans.
The U.S. women’s team, with 10 first-time Olympians, overcame a shaky start to beat host China 12-11 in preliminary play.
“I can guarantee it won’t be like that the rest of the tournament,” Natalie Golda said.
In other preliminary action, Hungary beat the Netherlands 11-9, defending gold medalist Italy defeated reigning European champion Russia 9-8 and 2000 gold medalist Australia knocked off Greece 8-6.
Two days before the tournament begins, the Americans won a tuneup game against China 7-3. Nate Schierholtz homered and doubled after the team received an on-field and dugout visit from President Bush, who stayed for about two innings. Fans and media weren’t allowed in until after Bush left.
Reuters, The Associated Press and NBCOlympics.com contributed to this report.