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U.S. Athletes Pile Up Medals at Olympics

Aired September 22, 2000 - 2:20 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: It's gorgeous in Sydney, Australia, where it's spring, and where they're still talking about the women's all-around gymnastics final and what might have been.

As we told you yesterday, the Rumanians won all three medals. Some wonder if they would have, though, had all the equipment been set properly. We now know the vault horse was positioned two inches too low, causing a number of competitors to fall, including the favorite, Svetlana Khorkina of Russia. When the problem was corrected, she and others were given the chance to do their vaults -- to redo them. She declined, and finished 11th.

In other Olympic news, the U.S. equestrian team is celebrating the end of a 16-year gold medal drought.

David O'Connor rode Custom Made to victory in the three-day individual event.

And the start of track and field events brought out the biggest crowds so far; about a million people trying to get to different venues at the same time.

More on what they saw once they got there from CNN/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's Nick Charles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK CHARLES, CNN/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The United States spent Thursday night making more huge waves in the water with a dead heat, first place finish in the explosive event they call splash and dash.

(voice-over): Gary Hall and Anthony Ervin made history when they touched the wall at exactly the same moment in the 50-meter freestyle to each earn a gold medal and beat the man called the flying Dutchman in swimming's fastest race.

American Brooke Bennett kept the U.S. flag waving when she wired the field in the 800-meter freestyle to match the gold medal she won earlier in the 400.

BROOKE BENNETT, GOLD MEDAL, 800-METER FREESTYLE: To get 8:19 here, five weeks later, was incredible; and, you know, I wanted to go under that 8:20 mark for the Olympic record. And it just means that, you know, I'm getting closer and closer to those world records.

It's hard to believe that the second Olympics I've competed in is over with and I've accomplished two more gold medals. It's amazing.

CHARLES: 120,000 people pored into Stadium Australia for the start of track and field, and American sprint queen Marion Jones toasted the field twice; first in the heat of day and then in the cool of night with a couple of blistering runs to glide into Saturday's 100-meter semi-finals.

World-record holder Maurice Greene was as hot, closing out his day of qualifying in the men's 100 with a time of 10.10 seconds; 400- meter master Michael Johnson got his work done early Friday, coasting in his qualifying heat.

The U.S. women's basketball team took care of business early, blitzing New Zealand 93-42 to stay unbeaten in four games.

LISA LESLIE, U.S. WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Then we got an opportunity to, one, play everyone and then, secondly, get a little bit of rest in the second half.

But sometimes those games are the toughest too; we were a little sloppier than we wanted to be early on, but we ended up pulling it together.

CHARLES: Seventeen-year-old high school senior Cheryl Haworth, who began lifting weights to built up her arm strength for softball, set an American record and will go home to Savannah, Georgia with a bronze medal.

CHERYL HAWORTH, BRONZE MEDAL, 165-LB. WEIGHTLIFTING: I think it's going to make a lot of people realize that, you know, that people are athletes, you know, no matter how they look and no matter what they do and, you know, hard work pays off; and all those times I couldn't go out with my friends and I went straight over to the gym to work out, you know, was for a reason. It was for this. It was so that I could bring this home to them.

CHARLES: Earlier Friday the U.S. picked up its first weightlifting gold medal since the Rome Olympics 40 years ago.

Tara Knott went from silver to gold after the Bulgarian woman who beat her Thursday tested positive for an illegal weight-loss drug.

(on camera): Friday Knott cheered on her bronze-medal winning teammate Cheryl Haworth, and was saddened she couldn't attend her own gold medal ceremony because the IOC wouldn't change the time.

TARA KNOTT, GOLD MEDAL, 105-LB. WEIGHTLIFTING: I wasn't upset about, you know -- going from the silver to the gold -- I don't think my anger, not that I have a lot of anger, but I don't think it's coming from there; it's more of just like, wow, now I have won the gold. You know, I'd like to share it with everyone that's supported me; to have my family there would be important, to have my teammates there would be important, and right now that's not happening. CHARLES: Meanwhile Bulgaria's entire weightlifting team was thrown out of the Olympics after two more of its medalists tested positive for doping.

In Sydney, Australia, I'm Nick Charles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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