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Chinese Swimmer's "Suspicious" Race; London 2012; Romney Calls Out Iran; "Get The Hell Out Now"; Witnesses: Shark Bites Swimmer; Aimee Copeland's Amazing Recovery; Drew Peterson Trial Begins Today; Drought Days; Interview with former Olympian John Roethlisberger; Pep Rally For Penn St. Players; Romney Praises Poland's Economy

Aired July 31, 2012 - 06:00   ET



BERMAN (voice-over): A big letdown in London. The favored U.S. men's gymnastics team falters.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Mitt Romney getting ready to speak in Poland. There's a lot on the line after what has been a tough trip overseas.

BERMAN: And just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, a shark attacks on swimmers off of Cape Cod.


SAMBOLIN: The guy's OK, though.


BERMAN (on-camera): Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is just about 6:00 a.m. in the east. Also coming up, Penn State students rallying for their embattled football program at this hour.

BERMAN: And also, we're going to be talking about the drought that's hitting the Midwest. Our Christine Romans goes back to her home state of Iowa. She's talking to farmers, small businessmen trying to deal with what is the worst drought in decades.

But first, we're talking about the Olympics and a wild day in London. A disappointing one for men's gymnastics and historic one for swimmer, Missy Franklin, a controversial one for a 16-year-old Chinese swimmer who did one lap faster than Ryan Lochte. Maggie Gray who's here with us, she'll join us in a minute with the highlights.

But up first, I want to Atika Shubert who is live in London. Let's talk about that U.S. men's gymnastics team and that incredible disappointment just one slip up after the other.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, they did so well in the trials. They've placed first and there was a lot of confidence going in, but unfortunately for John Arosco, when he hit the vault and attempted to land, it just didn't work out.

And that meant that the entire U.S. men's gymnastic's team was basically out of medal contention. China won the gold, Japan the silver after a little bit of debate there.

But it was really disappointing for the men's gymnastics team because they had so much confidence going in. You could see it on Arosco's face, not just after his dismount from the vault, but when he actually sat down, you could see he was really just trying to contain his tears.

But having said that, we are looking forward to women's gymnastics today, Jordyn Wieber who was expected to be the star of it didn't qualify. However, which means it will be depending on two of the other gymnast on the U.S. team to try and gain some more medals tonight.

BERMAN: All right, Atika, thank you so much there live in London.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: So upsets and moments of inspiration in the pool as well so let's get right away to Maggie Gray. This is a tough one.

We're talking about the Chinese swimmer. She's come under fire because from a U.S. coach who called her performance in the 400 individual medley suspicious.

They're talking about the doping now and the possibility of that. What do you know about that?

MAGGIE GRAY, ANCHOR, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED VIDEO: We don't know whether or not she was doping or not at all. She will be tested just like every Olympian at the Olympics is.

But I think one of the reasons why this story had legs because of what happened in 2008 in Beijing with the women's gymnastics team. Four of those gymnasts came under scrutiny for being too young.

You have to be at least 16 years old to compete in the Olympics in gymnastics, after two investigations, the Chinese team was cleared of any wrong doing, but it does leave a little bit in the back of people's minds that maybe they are doing things that are a little bit unethical.

But as far as we know, there's no reason to suspect this swimmer is doping.

SAMBOLIN: OK, let's talk about the specifics here with five seconds faster than her record performance. She was also faster than Lochte was. So I want to first listen to what the IOC has to say about that this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the sudden rise in performance or surprise win be primarily suspected for being achieved, sport is a danger for sure because it partially ruins the charm of the competitive sport if a surprise win is surrounded by suspicions and question marks.


SAMBOLIN: But there are a lot of suspicions and question marks. And before we get to that, let's also put up a statement that Lochte put out right after this as well. If we have that ready, that would be great. Do we have that?

GRAY: He essentially was wowed.

SAMBOLIN: There it is. It was pretty impressive and it was a female, she's fast. If is she was there with me, I don't know, she might have beat me.

GRAY: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: So, you know, how likely is something like that to happen?

GRAY: You know, unfortunately in this day and age in sports, everything is suspicious. Any time that you put together a time or a race or performance that's better than anyone expected.

People are going to look and maybe raise an eyebrow, shrug their shoulders and say it could be performance enhancing drugs. As of now though, we have no reason to suspect she could have just raced the race of her life.

SAMBOLIN: And super duper athlete and beating out the guys as well.

BERMAN: But where there's smoke there's fire so often in sports these days. There's a history in this in Atlanta with an Irish swimmer. I mean, whenever you blow these records open by seconds and we're talking of big chunk, it definitely raises eyebrows.

GRAY: Yes, and it will. And we'll know as soon as the drug test do come back. And they certainly will be tested along with the American athlete. Everyone is tested in the IOC in the world anti-doping agency does a fantastic job of trying to find out cheaters.

SAMBOLIN: Wouldn't it be something if it all came back fine, right?

GRAY: And that's part of why the Olympics is great because you have can have these amazing, record breaking mind-blowing races and hopefully it will be a good story.

SAMBOLIN: OK, before we let you go, we got to talk about Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh, and what is expected of them. Are they just going --

GRAY: They're cruising through the field. I mean, they're going for a repeat in beach volleyball competition. They have not dropped a set. It is just looking like another dominant performance and people thought maybe this year they would not be the favorite. They have proven that teamwork and the chemistry they have together. There's just no match for it.

SAMBOLIN: Now we had Misty May here and we told her to bring back the gold and bring it here so that we could see it live and in person.

GRAY: They looked excited last night. They are doing good things.

SAMBOLIN: All right, thank you so much for being with us this morning. We appreciate it.

GRAY: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: It would be great if they can retire on such a high note.

SAMBOLIN: Absolutely. I think it's only Misty May that's retiring.

BERMAN: OK, well, at least Misty May.

We're going to give you an update on the overall medal count right now. The U.S. is tied with China overall, 17 medals but we're trailing in gold 9-5. Japan is now in third with 11 medals.

SAMBOLIN: And what to watch for today, Michael Phelps heads back to the pool looking for his first gold medal of this games. That's in the 200-meter butterfly. If he medals, he'll tie the career mark of 18 medals.

Missy Franklin wins to her second in the 200-meter freestyle. And in gymnastics, the women try to win gold that is in the teen competition.

BERMAN: And coming up at 6:30 Eastern, we're going to talk to a U.S. gymnast, one on one, he's been there more than anybody. John Rufusberger, a three-time Olympic gymnast will join us and we're going to ask him what went wrong in London.

SAMBOLIN: There's so much more ahead. Mitt Romney is in Warsaw, Poland this morning about to wrap up his three-nation tour with a speech about the values of liberty.

But the presumptive GOP nominee continues to stumble on the world stage. Palestinian officials are labelling him racist for telling Israeli donors their culture allows them to be more economically successful than the Palestinians.

The White House quick to jump on their opponent's latest stumble, senior strategist, David Axelrod, tweeting, is there anything about Romney's rolling ruckus that would inspire confidence in his ability to lead U.S. foreign policy?

And in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, the former Massachusetts governor is backtracking on comments he made last March about Russia being America's number one foe. Here's what he had to say.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The number one national security threat, of course, to our nation is a nuclear Iran. Russia is a geopolitical adversary, but it's not an enemy with missiles being fired at one another or things of that nature.


SAMBOLIN: Romney also telling Wolf Blitzer that he believes the U.S. should keep a military option available in Iran.

BERMAN: Tens of thousands of people are leaving Syria's largest city this morning. The bloody struggle for control of Aleppo is intensifying overnight.

Rebel forces trying to capture the last government checkpoint on the road to the Turkish border. Government troops stepping up their shelling of rebel-held positions with rockets, field artillery and helicopter gunships.

CNN's Barbara Starr catching up with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on his five-day four-nation trip in North Africa. In the Middle East, Panetta sounding certain the Assad regime is on its last legs.


LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I'm sure that deep down Assad knows he's in trouble and it's just a matter of time before he has to go.


PANETTA: I would say if you want to be able to protect yourself and your family, you better get the hell out now.


BERMAN: His travels this week take him to Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and with Syria topping the agenda at each stop.

SAMBOLIN: It's 7 minutes past the hour, a shark scare off the coast of Cape Cod. Witnesses say a man swimming off Massachusetts was bitten by a shark yesterday. Sunbathers say they did see a large dorsal fin come out of the water.

And this video from the "Cape Cod Times" showing the man being carried off in a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance. The man is said to be in stable condition.

He had severe cuts on both legs, but the fire chief says he will not lose a limb. Several great white sharks have been spotted off the Cape Cod coast this summer.

BERMAN: These really are so rare, sharks scare, but every time it happens, it scares me.

SAMBOLIN: It's always very scary. Aimee Copeland, the Georgia woman who lost parts of all her limbs to flesh eating bacteria has been fitted with three new prosthetics, two hooks for hands and a leg prosthetic. Asked when she might come home from rehab, here's what her father told CNN's Erin Burnett.


ANDY COPELAND, AIMEE COPELAND'S FATHER: We're saying that she's going to be home by the 22nd. And essentially, I told her, I said great, when you come home, I want to have cameras there. Everybody, you know, seeing Aimee come home.

And she goes, no, dad. I don't need that. I need -- let me come home. She said, I just need to come home. I feel like it was going to be a great big moment that we could record.

She doesn't even want me to record it with a home video. And she said, you know, did you record me when I went off to college? I'm like no. She said, OK, when this is the same thing, don't make a big deal out of it.


BERMAN: Her father is so excited to have her back. Her father did say Aimee's injured left foot may require more surgery. Still her recovery is remarkable. Aimee contracted the bacteria after falling from a homemade zip line back in May.

SAMBOLIN: Amazing competition that she have.

BERMAN: Her father was so great.

SAMBOLIN: It's good moments.

Opening statements today in the Drew Peterson case, prosecutors are facing some challenges, that's putting it mildly. A live report coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It's 13 minutes past the hour. We're happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It's great to see you. And today, opening statements begin in the much anticipated trial of ex-cop Drew Peterson.

Peterson is charged with the murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. She was found drowned in her bathtub back in 2004. Her death was first ruled an accident.

But the case was reopened in 2007 after Peterson's forth wife, Stacy, disappeared. Peterson is not facing charges in that case.

CNN's Ted Rowlands joins us now from Joliet, Illinois. And Ted, this trial has been a long time coming. It was delayed and prosecutors face some challenges, don't they? TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. A huge uphill climb for prosecutors because the reason that they exhumed Kathleen Savio's body in the first place was because Peterson's wife, his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, was missing and presumed dead and they have him as the main suspect.

Well, they can't bring in Stacy Peterson at all during this trial and the original autopsy and the original investigation into Savio's death was ruled an accident that you say. It's a huge problem for prosecutors.

Take a listen to Joel Brodsky, the very outspoken attorney for Drew Peterson.

BERMAN: I guess, we do not have that sound right now, Ted but --

ROWLANDS: Well, I can tell you basically what he said is that, the autopsy came back and said this was an accident. This was an accident. This was an accident.

And that's what we're going to hear today, John, in opening statements from the defense. Basically, using that first autopsy done on Kathleen Savio and it's going to be tough for the prosecution to get over that.

Because there's no direct evidence leading this former police officer to the death of his third wife and the elephant in the room, of course, is the missing fourth wife and the prosecution's really ham strung here, they can't bring that up.

BERMAN: The defense has her on the witness list. They say they think she's missing. They assume she'll show up and almost mocking the fact she's gone. It really is crazy.

Ted Rowlands in Joliet, Illinois -- thanks for being with us.

SAMBOLIN: Fifteen minutes past the hour. Let's get you up-to- date with this morning's top story. The U.S. women on top of the standings in gymnastics heading into the team competition today. This is, of course, one day after the men stumbled in the finals.

In the pool, Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin are trying to go for more gold.

BERMAN: Another mean tweet gets an Olympian booted. Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella making insulting remarks about South Koreans after South Korea beat Switzerland, 2-1, on Sunday. The message has been removed from Morganella's Twitter account and Morganella has apologized. Still, you remember a Greek triple jumper was thrown off the team for posting a derogatory comment on Twitter about African immigrants in Greece.

SAMBOLIN: Those tweets will get you in trouble. Police in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, looking for a robbery suspect who was caught on camera assaulting a man who suffers from muscular dystrophy. Two suspects entered a man's apartment, roughed him up then pulled him out of his wheelchair. One of the robbers stood on top of the helpless victim while his partner stole the TV.

The suspect police are searching for as identified Keenan Smith.

BERMAN: Aurora massacre suspect James Holmes facing 24 counts of first degree murder this morning, two counts for each of the 12 people he allegedly killed. Twelve of those charges cite extreme indifference to human life, 12 others cite deliberations.

Holmes is also charged with 116 counts of attempted murder. Prosecutors say a decision on whether to seek the death penalty against him could still be months away.

SAMBOLIN: Democratic lawmakers in New York and New Jersey have unveiled a bill to regulate the sale of ammunition both online and by male. The top House and Senate leaders have all by side stepped the issue of gun control because neither party wants to rock the boat ahead of November's elections.

BERMAN: Gold medal winning skeet shooter Kim Rhode making it clear, for her using a gun is about discipline, respect and competition. When asked about the gun control debate, here's what she told Piers Morgan.


KIM RHODE, U.S. GOLD MEDALIST: I think it's really sad too that the news gets those lines blurred between the news and the sport. And really the sport of shooting is about responsibility, discipline, focus. And that's really what we represent here at the Olympics and for me, it was a tradition, something passed down generationally in my family and we embrace that and run with it. It's really for us, that's what our sport is about. Hopefully we can push more of that positive message.


BERMAN: Rhode is the first American athlete to win five medals in an individual event in five consecutive Olympics. She isn't done. She'll compete in the women's trap which starts on Saturday.

SAMBOLIN: She's a rock star.

All right. Small farmers are struggling through the worst drought in decades. Christine Romans gets a firsthand look. This is her hometown, Iowa corn country. That is coming up.

And for an expanded look at all our top stories, head to our blog,


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 22 minutes past the hour.

As half of the nation suffers through the worst drought in 50 years and record heat, its toll is being felt especially hard by U.S. farmers. More than 90 percent of the corn crops are in drought- ravaged areas and the price of corn is up more than 50 percent in the last six weeks, hitting an all-time record on Monday.

BERMAN: And joining s us now live from Davenport, Iowa, is Christine Romans.

Christine, you grew p in Iowa. You covered commodities for years. What do you see on the ground there?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. What I see is I see a drought. And some patches of ground are going to yield some corn. They're going to yield some beans and other patches are a complete wipeout.

I want to take you through a farm I went to yesterday and told you about this last hour, Joe Dierickx, who is a farmer, 30 miles north of where I lived. You're going to feel this in your grocery bill next year folks, watch.


JOE DIERICKX, IOWA FARMER: This is just total devastation up here. It's just nothing. There isn't anything in this. This is just junk.

How does this affect the consumer? Well, I would expect that we will have higher meat prices, higher grain prices will make that happen and bread prices probably will be higher.

So, when it's 100 degrees, I mean that just pretty much fries all of this stuff.

ROMANS: It tried.

DIERICKX: It's pretty looking, isn't it?

ROMANS: It tried.

DIERICKX: We love growing crops. I mean, we love to do what we do, but this year, we're going to fail at it because Mother Nature wasn't doing her part.


ROMANS: Could I introduce you to Katie Tuttle (ph)? She's an agronomist here. She's a local agronomist. And she talks to the farmers about their corn crop.

Katie, he was talking about Mother Nature not cooperating, we can try to do everything else but Mother Nature we don't have control over. This is a decent ear of corn you guys got.

KATIE TUTTLE (ph), AGRONOMIST: Right. What we're seeing here three of our better ears, this is on rotated ground, looks a lot better this year.

ROMANS: Even a decent looking ear of corn --

TUTTLE: Here we're also seeing more kernels aborted.

ROMANS: So, this is so interesting. So these kernels you guys, they just shut themselves sown so they could protect other kernels, because there's too much sun and not enough water.

TUTTLE: Right. It's too hot when it's pollinating. So then it doesn't pollinate quickly.

ROMANS: Look at these.

TUTTLE: This is what we're typically seeing in some of the fields around here.

ROMANS: This is typical around here?

TUTTLE: Yes. So, what you're seeing is a lot of tip back caused from the drought and heat during pollination.

ROMANS: So, this is not what Iowa farmers are known for. This is so devastating about this crop.

TUTTLE: Right.

ROMANS: Unbelievable. So, this is the happiest the corn will be today, I take it?

TUTTLE: It's unrolled right at the moment and overnight it's able to cool down and make the sugars --

ROMANS: And we have no rain in the forecast. It's going to be hot today again guys.

So, Katie Tuttle, nice to meet you and thanks for walking us through the science of Mother Nature here, guys.

SAMBOLIN: And you alluded to grocery bills earlier? Can you talk a little bit about that?

ROMANS: Yes. Grocery bills will be up 4 percent or 5 percent next year. So, if you have $100 grocery bill, you guys, you can expect to pay $104 next year. We look down the aisle things, everything from peanut butter to ketchup, like anything that has to do with -- it's going to have corn syrup, it's got corn products in it, soybeans, soybean oil, all of that stuff is going to be a little bit more next year.

This will be a historically big crop because they planted so many acres, but it's not near what anybody was expecting when they were putting corn seed in the ground earlier this year.

BERMAN: All right. Christine Romans, back home in Iowa, thank you so much for looking at what's on the ground. Thanks.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: It is 25 minutes past the hour.

Olympic cyclist Dotsie Bausch has trained to compete with the best in the world.

BERMAN: When it comes to traveling, she wishes she was a runner. Here's her Olympic journey on this week's "Road Warriors".


DOTSIE BAUSCH, OLYMPIC CYCLIST: Hi. I'm Dotsie Bausch, and I'm going to be competing in women's team pursuit and track cycling on August 3rd and 4th. Traveling for competition, if I had known it was this much sleeping, I would have been a runner. You have to pack your road bike and regular suitcase and your carry-on. It's a mess.

We'll use road bikes on what we can rollers where you can ride in place. So, we're going to be doing that in the hotel. Something else that's awesome to travel with is a therapy ball. You are on the plane for how many 8 to 12 hours, I use this to release tension in my hips.

I am looking forward to the whole experience of being in the village. No other time do any of these sports compete with a bunch of other sports around. It always felt like a long way away but time flies, though, so here we are.

It was emotional just to think -- it's been a wild ride and I would have never thought I would have made it to the Olympics at all, much less really feeling knowing that we have a shot at a medal.

Thanks for coming on the road with me, and I'll see you in London.


BERMAN: Travel like an Olympian. She trains in a bike stationary.

SAMBOLIN: I love that therapy ball. Who knew, right, that they travel? You don't think what they have to travel with.

BERMAN: Hats off to them.

On the subject of the Olympics, not such a happy one. They were supposed to bring medals home from London, but instead disappoint for the U.S. men's gymnastics team. Coming up, John Roethlisberger, three-time Olympic gymnast, he's going to join us and we're going to ask him what went wrong in London.


SAMBOLIN: Falling off the horse, literally. The U.S. mens gymnastics team collapses in the final. Can the women make some up today?

BERMAN: Three-time Olympic gymnast John Roethlisberger will join us live to weigh in shortly.

Too good to be true. The Chinese female swimmer who smashed a world record and finished stronger than the guys. The win raising suspicions that China cheated.

SAMBOLIN: And the film with an unfortunate name after the Colorado massacre, giving movie goers jitters.

Welcome back to EARLY START. We're really happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It is now 31 minutes past the hour. We're so happy you're with us.

We're still talking about the Olympics and fans of Team USA are stunned by the news. The men's gymnastics team after being on top in qualifying rounds found themselves without a medal, finishing a disappointing fifth place in the team final. And when it was all said and done, China claimed their consecutive gold medal in this event and Great Britain was on the podium for the first time in a century and the crowd there went nuts.

Japan made headlines for nabbing silver after the coaches made an official inquiry over the scoring of their final athlete. The decision ultimately improve their score, moving the team from fourth to second. There was a lot going on there right now.

And joining us now is John Roethlisberger. John is a three-time Olympic gymnasts. He was part of the team for a long, long time. He joins us now live from London.

And, John, I know you watched this, there were falls on the floor, on the pummel horse, on the vault.

What was going through your head when you saw this?

JOHN ROETHLISBERGER, FORMER OLYMPIC GYMNAST: It was devastating for the United States. Coming in, they were in a situation that quite honestly, the United States men have rarely if ever been in, qualifying first place in the team finals and they were on a high.

I'll be honest with you. I did not see this coming. I watched all of the Olympic trials, all of the championships. And if you added up all of the mistakes those athletes had in those four days of competition, they probably had more last night than all of those competitions combined. It was deflating and I know those guys are hurting this morning and will hurt for a long time.

BERMAN: John, I want to bring up a sore subject but you have experience in '96 in Atlanta. You had a slip on the pummel horse. I don't want to bring you back on that painful moment.


ROETHLISBERGER: This interview is over, John.

BERMAN: What goes through your head when that happens? I mean, I could just see the pain their faces. Tell us what it's like.

ROETHLISBERGER: Well, the Olympics, they are unforgiving is a kind way to put it. Gymnastics is an unforgiving sport because you don't get second chances and don't get a rebound and get another chance to make a shot. You get one chance. Not to mention, it is such an intricate difficult sport.

You know, when I fell off the pummel horse in '96, the situation was a little bit different from last night. For all gymnasts, when you make a mistake, it's -- you're in shock. If you saw the highlight, you're standing like this and you want a redo. And you just want to -- hey, that didn't really happen, let me redo really quick.

And it's hard. You've got to regroup. Even last night, the Americans still had a chance. They made a mistake on the floor. They made a couple of mistakes on horse. The thing about gymnastics it's not over because the other teams could give you an opportunity. And that's what you're hoping for.

Unfortunately for the United States, that opportunity did not present itself and it was a disappointing fifth place finish.

BERMAN: Let me read you a quote from Danell Leyva, which gives you a sense of what was going on in his head. He says, "I'm someone who is visual in his training. It was very hard because I had never been to an Olympic games before. But now, I know the feeling. Now I know what the crowd is going to be like and the air is going to taste like when I'm in training. So, it's going to help in my training in the next four years leading up to Rio."

Rio is four years away. But Leyla still got the individual competition coming up. What lessons can he take with him heading into that?

ROETHLISBERGER: Well, you've got to stay focused. And I think for the United States when things went wrong early, they hadn't been in that situation, they were so confident and such on a high that as soon as things derailed a little bit, they looked a little out of sorts and didn't know how to handle it. Maybe that's the lesson they take from it, in that hey, it's just gymnastics. It's just like that pummel horse that I have in my gym. It's just like that pummel horse I competed at in the Olympic trials.

And you've got to treat it that way. You can't look around and look at the other teams in the Olympics rings. You've got to look at yourself and that apparatus. There's no defense, you're the offense and you just got to go assert yourself.

I think at the end of the day, you've got to be aggressive and assert yourself. Hopefully, you know, hard lessons are sometimes good lessons. And hopefully the men will not forget this.

You don't want to forget that sour disgusting feeling in your stomach. I didn't forget after '96, and you go back and you just -- you give it better than you gave it the first time. That's all you can do.

BERMAN: There's no defense in gymnastics. John Roethlisberger, thanks so much for being here. You are a hero, you've done things I can't imagine doing. So thanks for being with us this morning. Come back --

ROETHLISBERGER: Don't try to suck up, John, after that comment about my pummel horse. You're not getting back in the good graces.

SAMBOLIN: Well done.

BERMAN: I pull a hamstring when I look at the pummel horse.


SAMBOLIN: Thank you so much. That was really great. It's nice to get their perspective and how these athletes are feeling.

But, you know, he says that he'll never forget. Nobody would ever let him forget, would they John?

BERMAN: Sometimes you have to bring it up. I'm just saying.

SAMBOLIN: Years later, all right. No, you didn't.

Thirty-six minutes past the hour. Michael Phelps, he is swimming for immortality today, he'll be look for his first gold medal, of the London games when he competes in the 200 meter butterfly. If he finishes in the top three, he will tie the all time record of 18 career Olympic gold medals. How's that for pressure.

Phelps telling CNN's Piers Morgan he knows he's considered a superstar but doesn't always feel like one.


MICHAEL PHELPS, OLYMPIC SWIMMER: I like to just think of myself as a normal person who just has a passion, has a goal and dream and goes out and does it. That's how I lived my life.


SAMBOLIN: Phelps already has the most gold medals of any Olympian, 14 and shattered Mark Spitz's report with eight wins in Beijing. That was four years ago.

So, a lot of suspension is swirling around Chinese swimming sensation Ye Shiwen. The 16-year-old Olympic swimmer is denying taking performance enhancing drugs after shattering a world record at the London Games. One U.S. coach described her performance in the 400 meter individual medley as, quote, "disturbing".

Yesterday she shaved five seconds off her personal best to break the world record by more than a second and win the gold medal. In the last 50 meters of the race, she swam faster than U.S. star Ryan Lochte did in the men's event.

BERMAN: And, Zoraida, happening right now, Governor Mitt Romney wrapping up his three nation tour with a speech at the University of Warsaw in Poland. This is the third leg on the European leg. Let's take a listen to what he's saying.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This crafting a remarkable future. At a time of widespread economic slowdown and stagnation, your economy last year outperformed all of the other nations of Europe, quite an accomplishment. I began this trip in Great Britain and ended up here in Poland, the two book ends of NATO, history's greatest military alliance that kept the peace over half a century.

While he was at 10 Downing Street, I thought back to the days of Winston Churchill, the man first spoke of the Iron Curtain that had descended across Europe. What an honor to stand in Poland, among the men and women who helped to lift that curtain.

After that stay in England, I visited the state of Israel, a friend of your country and mine. It's been a trip to three places far apart on the map. But for an American, you can't get much closer to the ideals and convictions of my own country than you can in these places.

Our nations belong to the great fellowship democracies. We speak the same language of freedom and justice. We upheld the right of every person to live in peace.

I believe it's critical to stand by those who have stood by America. Solidarity was a great movement that freed a nation and it is well solidarity that America and Poland face the future.

BERMAN: All right. Governor Romney in Warsaw. Yes, he's talking about the economic success that Poland has seen over the years. It's a way for him to get back on the subject of the economy even while he's overseas, on the third stop on this three-nation tour.

You can continue to watch Romney's speech uninterrupted on our Web site, Once again, at

SAMBOLIN: Forty minutes past the hour now. The exodus has started at Penn State.

Coming up, the first football players to transfer out in the wake of the penalties imposed after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It is 43 minutes past the hour. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: Today has been flying by, don't you think?

BERMAN: Wicked fast.

SAMBOLIN: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It's nice to have you with us.

Let's get a check on the weather with Rob Marciano.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning, guys. A threat for showers across the eastern third of the country, including the big cities of New York and Boston. In South, we'll see some severe weather. Line of thunderstorms also moving across the Great Lakes right now. In between there, we've got some heat to deal with, more in the way of heat advisories. Oklahoma, especially northeastern Oklahoma through the lower Mississippi River Valley, some heat warnings with the humidity 110, 115, dangerous stuff.

There's the showers, it's heading across south to Chicago. Severe weather from Birmingham to Montgomery and that will expire in the next couple of hours.

June was hot, we knew that. Had 3,200 or so daily record high temperatures. Well, July even hotter, 4,200 record high temperatures and today we'll see more, 102 expected in Kansas City, 85 in Chicago.

SAMBOLIN: All right.

MARCIANO: Back to you.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Rob.

All right. It is now 44 minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date with the morning's top stories. The U.S. women on top of the standings in gymnastics and aiming for gold today in the team competition. That's one day after the men totally collapsed in the finals after finishing first in the trials.


BERMAN (voice-over): The U.S. women on top of the standings in gymnastics and aiming for gold the day in the team competition. That's one day after the men totally collapsed in the finals. After finishing first in the trials, they entered the finals last night as favorites but ended up a disappointing fifth in the team competition. It was China that took the gold.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Happening right now, at Penn State University, a radio show is hosting a pep rally for football players who decided to stay at the school despite a four-year bowl suspension and crippling sanctions handed out by the NCAA.

Punishment for school officials covering up the Gerry Sandusky sex abuse allegations. So, players will hold their first work-out of the season at 7:00 a.m.

BERMAN: Two prominent members of the team are leaving. Quarterback, Rob Bolden, announcing he has already visited LSU to explore a transfer. SAP Tim Buckley (ph) says he's headed for North Carolina State. A handful of other Penn State players are considering transferring, including star running back, Silas Redd, and outside linebacker, Mike Hall. SAMBOLIN: And in light of the Aurora shooting, some movie theaters have caused a stir by having the phrase, "safety not guaranteed on their marquee." The thing is that's the name of an actual Indy film. A theater manager in New Mexico says he's receiving complaints, and the manager of a Jacksonville theater posted on Facebook that a news crew showed up asking for comment. That's tough timing.

BERMAN: Yes. I can see why there are some concerns.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, absolutely.


BERMAN (on-camera): All right. Soledad O'Brien is here with us now to talk about what's coming up on "Starting Point."

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, lots to get to this morning on "Starting Point." This family tree has been linked to Brad Pitt, to Sarah Palin, to President Bush. It turns out that President Barack Obama might be related to the first documented American slave in revolutionary America back in the 1600s.

We're going to talk this morning to the lead genealogist of, but here's the catch. It's not through his African father, but it's through his white mother from Kansas. We'll tell you all about it starting at seven o'clock this morning.

Also, we're going to talk about the tax cut fight. Clock is ticking down to the boat. Is the economy being held hostage in between? We've got both sides this morning. We're going to talk to Maryland Democrat, Elijah Cummings, also, Republican Nan Hayworth of New York. She's going to actually be sitting in with our team all morning.

Then, we'll meet Angie. Behind Angie's list, there really is an Angie. We'll tell you how she turned her small business idea into a huge hit despite a tricky economy. All that and much more coming up in just about 13 minutes or so. We'll see you right at the top of the hour.

SAMBOLIN: I'm a big fan of Angie.

O'BRIEN: Really? You use the list?

SAMBOLIN: I use the service all the time when I lived in Chicago. I haven't used it here, but, boy, they do all the work for you.

O'BRIEN: I love that. OK. I'm going to try that, because I'm dealing with a contractor who left half of my house unbuild.

BERMAN: Angie is coming after them.

SAMBOLIN: And she will actually. It's nice.


BERMAN: All right.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Mitt Romney is speaking live now in Warsaw, Poland. We're going to have a live report telling you what he's saying. That's coming right up.


BERMAN: And we're back. Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It's about nine minutes before the hour. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Happy to have you with us. And happening right now, Mitt Romney is giving a major speech in Warsaw. He's championing the close ties between Poland and the United States. Let's listen in.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The answer once again is look to Poland. It's not surprising that people who waited so long and endured so much for the sake of liberty are today enjoying liberty to the fullest. Poland has no greater friend and ally than the people of the United States of America. You helped us win our independence. Your bravery inspired the allies in the Second World War.

You helped bring down the iron curtain. And your soldiers fought side-by-side with ours in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have fought together. We have died together. We share a common cause tested by time inseparable by foe. In times of trouble and in times of peace, we march together. God bless you, God bless America, and God bless the great nation of Poland. Thank you so much.



SAMBOLIN: CNN's Jim Acosta is live in Warsaw. And Jim, he's taking a lot of criticism on this trip, and you know, this was the final leg. So, what do you think people are going to be saying about this?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think this speech is going to be very well received here in Poland. He's already met with a number of leaders here in this country. I don't know if you saw this yesterday, Zoraida, but Lech Walesa, who is an anti- communist icon in this country all but endorsed Mitt Romney yesterday during a meeting that they both had in Gdansk.

So, he is having a good trip here in Poland. You know, it has to be reported that this trip has been marred by a few gaffes. There was what happened in Great Britain when he questioned whether that city was ready in London -- when he questioned whether that city was ready for the Olympic games and then when he went to Israel, he gave that big speech in front of Jerusalem's old city wall, but then he came and did a fundraiser the next day and made some comments that upset the Palestinians.

So, it's sort of been one problem after another for Mitt Romney. And then, he came here to Poland today, hopefully, to leave one lasting image of his trip hailing what he called a really shining example to the rest of the world, not only when it comes to their fight for freedom over the many years, they've suffered through a lot the (INAUDIBLE), but also the fact that their economy is doing so well. So, I think the Polish like what they're hearing today, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: No doubt. We listened to a little bit in the beginning and now at the end, and he ended exactly as he began. CNNs Jim Acosta live for us, thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right. And today's "Best Advice" comes from record breaking yachting, Alex Thomson, one of the coolest sailors around. My favorite yachtsman, and that's coming up just after this quick break.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BERMAN: And breaking news is from Oslo, Norway, where the area around the U.S. embassy has been evacuated. Embassy officials called police in Norway saying they were seeing a, quote, "suspicious thing under a car parked just outside."

So, they've cleared an area about 500 meters around the U.S. embassy right now, and police are investigating the scene. Stay with us. We'll bring you the latest on this as it develops.

We have "Best Advice" today.


SAMBOLIN: "Starting Point" with Soledad O'Brien is coming up next. But first, here's our "Best Advice."


ALEX THOMSON, BRITISH YACHTSMAN: So, the last two (ph) around the world where I say (ph), I didn't finish. And the best advice someone gave me was Sir Robin-Knox Johnson. He was the first guy to sail singlehanded nonstop around the world in 1969. And he said to me, Alex, to finish first, first you have to finish.


BERMAN: That was from Alex Thomson, a yachtsman who is trying to sail around the world all by himself. One of the very few people that make that race. He has tried twice and fail. So, that advice, in order to finish first, first you have to finish particularly poignant.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Let's hope he does. Wouldn't that be great?

BERMAN: It would be the best.

SAMBOLIN: All right.

BERMAN: That is EARLY START for this morning. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "Starting Point" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.