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World Sport

U.S. women clinch basketball title


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The female "dream team" celebrate their gold medal
• Olympics 2004: Special report 

ATHENS, Greece -- The United States at least retained one of their Olympic basketball titles as the American women beat Australia 74-63 in the gold medal match.

The match was a repeat of the final four years ago in Sydney, with the U.S. winning their third straight gold.

The match had been tied at 50-50 late in the third quarter but the U.S. surged clear with a superb burst of 11 points in quick succession.

Tina Thompson led the scoring for the U.S. with 18 points, while Lauren Jackson chipped in with 12.

The result restored a little pride for American basketball after Argentina's shock semifinal win over the U.S. men on Friday. The U.S. had won every gold medal since NBA players were first allowed to compete in 1992.

Russia beat Brazil 71-62 to win the bronze medal.

U.S men salvage some pride

Meanwhile, the U.S. men's team salvaged some pride, beating Lithuania 104-96 to take the bronze medal.

Having struggled most of the tournament on their way to three losses, the win saves the team from becoming the first American squad to not bring home a Games medal.

It also erased the embarrassment of showing up in the wrong uniforms.

The U.S. mistakenly wore their white uniforms to the arena, the same as the Lithuanians, and the game was delayed about 40 minutes while the team sent for its red "away" jerseys.

When play started, the two teams were close for three quarters until Shawn Marion keyed a run midway through the final frame to put the Americans up for good.

Marion ended the game with 22 points, while Allen Iverson had 15. Arvydas Macijauskas had 24 for Lithuania, who were looking to win their fourth consecutive Olympic bronze.

Argentina and Italy square off in the gold medal game later on Saturday.

Wrestling gold for Russia

Mavlet Batirov of Russia took the gold medal in the Olympic freestyle wrestling 55kg weight division after thrashing Stephen Abas of the United States 9-1 on points in a one-sided bout.

Batirov took an early lead and never looked back, countering Abas' stealthy moves with powerful attacks which left the American struggling to break free.

The Russian, who received the majority of support from a crowd made up mainly of Greek fans and a small Iranian contingent, celebrated calmly in his corner with his coaches while Abas walked off disappointedly.

There was no joy for Greece in the bronze medal bout which was won convincingly by Chikara Tanabe of Japan who beat local hope Amiran Karntanov 7-0 on points.

Favorite Sanderson claims gold

Favorite Cael Sanderson of the United States took the gold medal in the 84kg freestyle wrestling weight division after beating Moon Eui-jae of South Korea.

Sanderson's strong and athletic build was too much for Moon, who opened with a point but could not hold on as the American constantly tried to grab his opponent's heels, eventually scoring the three points needed to secure victory.

Russia's Sazhid Sazhidov won the bronze medal bout against Cuba's Yoel Romero in another athletic battle, the score 5-3 in favor of Sazhidov.

120kg freestyle gold for Uzbekistan

Artur Taymazov of Uzbekistan pinned Iranian opponent Alireza Rezaei to win the gold medal in the 120kg freestyle wrestling.

Taymazov registered the only fall in any of the men's finals during the Olympic competition in both Greco-Roman and freestyle disciplines and looked the more dominant of the two big men, leading by two points from an early move.

The bout was over in a little over four minutes and as the disconsolate Iranian rose from the mat and settled for the silver medal, Taymazov shook the referee's hand before going off to celebrate his golden victory with his coaches.

Aydin Polatci of Turkey won the bronze medal by beating Marid Mutalimov of Kazakhstan in another slow, lumbering bout. Polatci secured the third point required for victory in added time after the officials reviewed video evidence which confirmed his point.

Gymnastics gold for Russia

Russia underlined their superiority in rhythmic gymnastics by winning the group gold medal with an alluring synchronized performance at the Olympics on Saturday.

The defending champions easily outclassed their challengers with their two dramatic routines to earn 51.100, an impressive 1.65 points ahead of second-placed Italy.

"The Russian team is very pleased to win gold again as it has repaid all the sacrifices the girls have made," said Russian coach Valentina Ivanitskaya.

Performing to the theme tune from the "Matrix," the Russian quintet stormed into an early lead with 25.300 points with their twirling ribbon display.

The crowd erupted after Italy's second routine but their chants of "Italia Italia" failed to sway the judges and the team ended up taking the silver with 49.450.

A theatrical routine to the strains of "Bolero" helped Bulgaria to edge out Belarus for the bronze.

Greece, initially awarded sixth place by the judges, were moved up to fifth after a videotape of their ribbons performance was reviewed by officials.

Sailing gold for Austria

Austria's Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher retained their Olympic Tornado title in style on Saturday, winning the final race in their two-man catamaran.

The pair, who have crewed together since 1997 in the fastest of the Olympic sailing classes, held a slender advantage going into the last of 11 races but blitzed their key rivals with a faultless performance on the last day of the regatta.

Americans John Lovell and Charlie Ogeltree, seventh in Sydney, took silver and bronze went to Argentina's Santiago Lange and Carlos Espinola.

The Austrians, such was their dominance, had wrapped up gold with two races to spare in Sydney four years ago but were made to work harder for victory in Athens.

"Some people in Austria said it was a bit boring (to watch us win easily) in Sydney," Hagara joked.

"So we tried for another version this time...it is more interesting to watch close racing." Emphasizing his point, he added: "This victory means more to us."

Mountain bike gold for France

Mountain bike gold for FranceThe French cycling team salvaged some pride from an otherwise dismal Olympics when Julien Absalon won gold in the mountain bike cross country race.

Absalon, from Raon aux Bois in north-east France, grabbed a French tricolour from a fan as he rode to the line at the end of the mountain bike cross country race and pointed to the heavens while waving it aloft.

"That was for my father who died in January 2001," he explained. "He was my main fan and my major supporter. It's thanks to him that I'm here today and it's from him that I have got my strength -- the strength to do this."

Spain's Jose Antonio Hermida, who turned 26 on Tuesday, gave himself a silver medal as a late birthday present, finishing exactly one minute behind.

The extrovert Catalan dropped his bike after crossing the line and fell spreadeagled on his back before getting up and running over to embrace Absalon.

Dutchman Bart Brentjens held off a spirited late attack from Belgium's Roul Paulissen to take bronze, eight years after he won the inaugural Olympic mountain bike title in Atlanta.

China dominate diving again

Hu Jia, silver medallist in 2000, soared to gold when he won the men's platform crown to bring China six of the eight diving titles at stake at the Athens Games.

Hu pulled off a great final dive which netted him five perfect 10s and 100.98 points, which effectively sealed his gold medal with his three biggest rivals still to dive.

Australia's Mathew Helm also pulled out a prodigious final dive to snatch the silver from defending champion Tian Liang by less than a single mark and prevent a Chinese one-two.

Hu amassed 748.08 points from his four semi-final and six final dives, with world silver medallist Helm taking the silver with 730.56 and world bronze medallist Tian in third with 729.66.

World champion Alexandre Despatie of Canada, silver medallist in the three-metre springboard event, had a patchy time in the final and finished fourth with 707.46.

China beat Russia in final

China won the gold medal in the women's volleyball competition, defeating Russia 3-2 in the final.

After Russia took the first two sets in marathon battles, 2003 World Cup winners China clawed their way back for a hard-fought 28-30 25-27 25-20 25-23 15-12 win.

Russia, silver medallists in Sydney four years ago, held off one match point but Yuehong Zhang spiked a winner past Russian blockers to win the match.

Earlier Cuba beat Brazil for the bronze metal.


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