It was theirs to lose, and they did.
Sanya Richards led in the stretch but was outrun to the finish in the 400 meters, Lolo Jones clipped the ninth of 10 barriers in the 100-meter hurdles Tuesday night — and just like that, two of America’s top runners let Olympic gold medals slip away.
Richards still won bronze, but a woman who has dominated the distance — save for the biggest races — looked crushed during the medals ceremony. Afterward, she was sitting in a hallway beneath the Bird’s Nest stands, crying into her cell phone.
In the next race, Jones was in the lead and seemed to be pulling away when she hooked her right foot on the ninth hurdle and broke her stride, falling from first to seventh. The late blunder opened the door for teammate Dawn Harper to win the U.S. track team’s third gold medal of the games.
“It was like racing a car at max velocity. When you hit a curve, you either maintain control or you crash and burn,” Jones said. “Today, I crashed and burned. I’m shocked and sad. But I’m happy for the girls.”
Earlier, Usain Bolt of Jamaica overtook defending Olympic champion Shawn Crawford in the 200-meter semifinals, setting up his chance Wednesday night for the first Olympic 100-200 double since Carl Lewis did it in 1984.
Andrey Silnov of Russia won the men’s high jump — but only got into the games based on a late decision by Russian track and field officials after he did not qualify through Olympic trials.
Other gold medals awarded Tuesday went to 1,500-meter runner of Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain and discus thrower Gerd Kanter of Estonia, who celebrated by running the 85-meter dash on the 100-meter course in about 15-flat, his country’s flag held aloft.
There were no big surprises in qualifying.
Bolt, Crawford and Wallace Spearmon all made it easily into the finals of the 200, where Bolt will be chasing Michael Johnson’s 12-year-old record of 19.32 seconds and everyone else will be chasing Bolt.
Jeremy Wariner and LaShawn Merritt (men’s 400) and David Oliver and Dayron Robles (men’s 110 hurdles) all also advanced easily through their qualifying rounds. Those hurdles were supposed to be a highlight of these games, but lost some luster when China’s Liu Xiang, a national celebrity and the defending Olympic champion, pulled out of qualifying with an injury.
Shawn Johnson made a habit of collecting silver at the Beijing Games, and she never stopped smiling. But it wasn’t exactly what she came to China for. She ended her runner-up streak with a beam routine that blew away the field, including all-around champ Nastia Liukin, behind whom Johnson got one of her three silvers.
“It’s crazy,” the 16-year-old Johnson said. “I remember seeing Nastia have hers from the all-around and it is so pretty. Silver is really pretty, too.
“It’s the best feeling ever.”
Johnson won the gold despite a headache earlier in the day.
“This is what we expected to see,” her coach Liang Chow said. “The thing I really am pleased with is she was a little under the weather and she still was able to do a wonderful routine.”
Wonderful also describes the Chinese men throughout these Olympics. They swept the two events Tuesday, with Zou Kai winning high bar and Li Xaiopeng winning parallel bars. In all, China took all but one men’s event, the vault — in which there was no Chinese finalist.
China’s men won the team title, Yang Wei took the all-around, and the Chinese also took the still rings, pommel horse and floor exercise.
The United States got its only men’s individual medal when Jonathan Horton soared through an energetic high bar routine that drew almost as loud a roar as Zou’s performance. Horton was second to Zou and also won bronze with the U.S. men in the team finals.
Altogether, the Americans won 10 medals; the U.S women won eight, compared to six for China. The 10 medals surpassed the U.S. total of nine in Athens.
Liukin got a gold, three silver and a bronze to tie the record for an American in one games.
Not that there was much doubt, but the U.S. women are headed back to the Final Four of this tournament.
Sylvia Fowles had 26 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Americans on their latest rout, a 104-60 victory over South Korea. The Americans have made the medal round in every Olympics they’ve entered, and have won 31 straight games since losing in the 1992 semifinals.
The Americans will play Becky Hammon and Russia in the semifinals Thursday night. Russia rallied to beat Spain 84-65 Tuesday night. China plays Australia in the other semifinal.
The Aussies advanced with a 79-46 victory over the Czech Republic. China moved on with a 77-62 victory over Belarus. It’s the first time the Chinese are in the medal round since taking silver in 1992.
Despite losing its opener, losing one key player to a gruesome injury and seeing another key player get hurt, the U.S. is headed to the medal round.
The Americans advanced with a 4-2 victory over Taiwan, powered by John Gall’s go-ahead homer and a solid outing by pitcher Brandon Knight. The final prelim test comes Wednesday night against medal favorite Japan. The semifinals start Friday.
South Korea and Cuba are advancing, too. Those teams squared off in a battle of unbeatens, and South Korea won 7-4.
“Since we beat the U.S. in our opener, the good luck has stayed with us so far,” South Korea manager Kim Kyung-moon said.
Also, Canada beat the Netherlands 4-0 and Japan beat China 10-0.
China is up to 6-for-6 in its bid for all eight golds.
He Chong easily won the men’s 3-meter springboard, getting 11 perfect marks of 10.0 in the six-round final. This is the fourth consecutive Olympics China has won this event.
American Troy Dumais was sixth for the third straight Olympics. Teammate Chris Colwill was 12th and last.
The final is set: Argentina vs. Nigeria.
Argentina is headed back to the Olympic final with the chance to become the first nation in 40 years to defend its title — and to avenge a loss to Nigeria in the 1996 finals.
Sergio Aguero scored goals six minutes apart in the second half and later set up another to lead Argentina past Brazil 3-0. Nigeria advanced with a 4-1 victory over Belgium that included two scores from long distances.
Germany’s Matthias Steiner won the men’s super heavyweight division, getting gold and the right to call himself the world’s strongest man.
At the medal ceremony, Steiner held up a picture of his wife, Susann, who died in a car accident last year.
“I thought of her before the competition,” he said. “I won this for her, for friends and family. But mostly for her.”
Steiner lifted a total of 461 kilograms (1,016.3 pounds), clinching the win with a clean and jerk of 258 kg (568.8 pounds).
This wasn’t Olympic cycling. It was the British Open.
With Victoria Pendleton winning the women’s track sprint and Chris Hoy taking the men’s version, the Brits won seven events and 12 medals in cycling, with Hoy claiming three golds.
They were favored to also win the men’s madison, but Argentina took it.
The Americans? Not a single medal in the five-day competition. Just like in Athens. It ended with Michael Friedman and Bobby Lea 16th in the Madison, and Jennie Reed seventh in the women’s sprint 5th-8th placement race.
American Mike Zadick worked so hard to get to the Olympics. Was it worth it? He wrestled for less than 10 minutes over two matches and didn’t score in either one.
“This is an opportunity I’ve wanted since I started wrestling at 5, 25 years ago, and it’s pretty sour to have on me,” he said. “It happened so quick, it’s just kind of a shock to me, and it’s something I’ll deal with.”
He competed in the 60-kilogram freestyle division, which was won by Russia’s Mavlet Batirov. Three-time Olympic gold medalist Alexander Karelin was in Batirov’s corner during the match.
After a slow start, the U.S. took down Italy in five sets to advance to a semifinal matchup with undefeated Cuba.
Afterward, the team celebrated with abandon. Ogonna Nnamani was joined by her teammate in a dance. They chanted “U-U-U-U-U-S-A!” And, of course, there were hugs all around.
Brazil plays defending champion China in the other semifinal on Thursday.
Women’s water polo
The U.S. will be playing for gold, taking on the Netherlands on Thursday, but will do so without center forward Lauren Wenger.
Wenger, the team’s most versatile player, broke her right hand in the closing minutes of a 9-8 semifinal victory over Australia. Brenda Villa scored three goals, including the winner with a minute left.
The U.S. is guaranteed to keep alive its streak of winning a medal at every Olympics that has included women’s water polo. The Americans won silver in 2000 and bronze in 2004.
The Dutch advanced by upsetting Hungary 8-7 in the other semifinal.
Rami Zur left Athens with a broken neck because of a freak pool accident. He might leave Beijing with two medals.
Zur has reached the semifinals of two kayak single (K-1) events. His berth in the 500 meters was secured a day after making it in the 1,000 meters. Carrie Johnson advanced to the women’s semis, giving the U.S. hope of returning to the Olympic flatwater medal stand for the first time since 1992.
Also, Canadian kayaker Adam van Koeverden set a world-best time in the 500-meter kayak single in a qualifying heat. Van Koeverden, who carried Canada’s flag at the opening ceremony, is the defending Olympic champion in the 500.
Get ready for a rumble.
Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor — the winners of 107 straight matches, including the last Olympic title — are headed to the finals against the Chinese duo of Tian Jia and Wang Jie.
The Americans easily beat a Brazilian tandem in the semifinals. Tian and Wang advanced by beating another team from China.
The United States has now reached the podium in all four Olympics since beach volleyball was added to the games in 1996.
“I think they are going to be the Olympic champions, for sure,” said Renata, part of the Brazilian team defeated by the Americans.
Germany’s Jan Frodeno, who was seventh at last year’s world championship, worked his way past a pack of foes with more glittering resumes and won the gold medal. The top American was Hunter Kemper, who finished seventh.
Jarrod Shoemaker was 18th, Matty Reed 32nd. Reed’s brother, Shane, competes for New Zealand and was 34th.
A light heavyweight from Tajikistan was disqualified for biting his opponent on the shoulder — and Evander Holyfield, boxing’s most famous biting victim, just missed seeing it.
Holyfield was at the arena for much of the evening card, but apparently was gone when Dzhakhon Kurbanov chomped on Kazakhstan’s Yerkebulan Shynaliyev during a clinch, drawing blood.
Also, China clinched at least four medals after managing just one at all previous Olympics.
Lightweight Alexey Tishchenko, one of three Russians left after their powerful team’s collapse, stayed in contention with a victory. He won the featherweight gold in Athens before moving up in class two years ago.
The U.S. got its first gold from the regatta when British-born Anna Tunnicliffe won the women’s Laser Radial class. China’s Xu Lijia got bronze, marking the third sailing medal for the hosts.
Britain got its third gold in sailing when Paul Goodison won the men’s Laser.
Also, a jury rejected yet another protest about the 49er class gold medal that went to Denmark in a boat borrowed from Croatia. Spain, which would’ve moved from silver to gold if the Danes were disqualified, said they saw the markings for Croatia and didn’t realize it was really the Danes.
Russia’s four-time world champion duo, both named Anastasia, kept their front-runner status going through the duet free preliminaries. The final is Wednesday. Americans Christina Jones and Andrea Nott came out of prelims fifth.
Russia needed two overtimes to beat France 32-31 and advance to a semifinal game against Hungary. The Russians came out of pool play undefeated.
South Korea will play Norway in the other semifinal.
Men’s field hockey
Australia advanced to the semifinals against Spain. Germany will play the Netherlands.
Anky van Grunsven of the Netherlands won her third straight gold in individual dressage.