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Day Of Upsets At Sydney

The United States pulled off not one but two big Olympic upsets Wednesday. One of the latest shockers came in the obscure sport of Greco-Roman wrestling, the other in the national pastime.

The Argentinian men's volleyball team, which beat the U.S. team a week earlier in Sydney, edged by South American neighbor and world volleyball powerhouse Brazil to meet Russia in the semifinals. Brazil - 1992 gold medalists - entered the tournament ranked No. 4 in the world, and set itself up as a medal favorite.

And Germany's Nils Schumann held off favorite, Danish runner Wilson Kipketer, at the finish line of the 800-meters race to win the gold with a time of 1 minute, 45.08 seconds. Kipketer got the silver and Aissa Djabir Said-Guerni of Algeria won the bronze.

But it was American athletes who really stunned Olympics crowds and International Olympic Committee Chairman Juan Antonio Samaranch, who was ready to personally herald Russian wrestler Alexander Karelin with what was expected to be his fourth consecutive gold medal.

Instead a 29-year-old man from Wyoming, who had never won a world or NCAA title, spoiled the ceremony, beating Karelin - generally considered the best Greco-Roman wrestler ever - 1-0 in the superheavyweight gold-medal match.

Rulon Gardner had trouble fathoming his triumph over Karelin, who hadn't been just unbeatable - he had been untouchable - for four straight Olympic Games.

Karelin hadn't lost in 13 years, winning three gold medals in the process. He hadn't been scored on in 10 years. He has a lift named after him. Great wrestlers gave up rather than be thrown around by him.

But, in the end, Gardner just outmuscled Karelin. The American forced the Russian to break a clinch and was awarded the only point of the match.

"When did I think I could beat him? About 10 minutes ago," Gardner said. "I kept saying, `I think I can. I think I can.' But it wasn't until it was over, that I knew I could."

Gardner's supporters mobbed him on the mat, but even they couldn't bring him down.

Then in the nightcap, an American baseball team, made up of mostly minor-leaguers, took the gold 4-0 over a veteran Cuban team that had lost only once in three Olympic tournaments.

Cuba had won both of the previous baseball golds, hardly breaking a sweat along the way. The Cubans lost to the Netherlands in the preliminary round at the Sydney Games, showing that their international dynasty might be in jeopardy, but handed the Americans their only prelim loss.

Wednesday night was different. Starter Ben Sheets, Milwaukee's first-round draft pick last year, threw a complete game and limited the Cubans to just three hits.

Mike Neill hit a first-inning homer, Ernie Young had a bases-loaded single and Pat Borders smacked an RBI double to account for the U.S. scoring.

When Neill made a sliding catch of Yasser Gomez's fly to left field for the final out, the Americans poured out of th dugout and turned into one big pile of blue jerseys. Manager Tom Lasorda draped himself in the stars-and-stripes and hugged his coaches and players.

The United States pushed its medal total to 69 (29 gold, 15 silver, 25 bronze) at the end of competition Wednesday. Russia followed with 55 (18-16-21) and China had 51 (22-14-15).

  • TENNIS: Venus Williams went from winning Grand Slam titles to an Olympic gold medal without missing a stroke.

    The hard-hitting Williams crumpled Elena Dementieva of Russia 6-2, 6-4 in just 58 minutes to take the Olympic women's singles championship.

    Williams extended her streak of consecutive singles victories to 32, and became the only player other than Steffi Graf to win Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Olympics in the same year.

    "I guess I've graduated to a different level, where I can be like some of the greats," Williams said.

  • TRACK AND FIELD: The cloud that was hanging above Marion Jones moved over Gail Devers.

    Chasing a 100-meter hurdles gold to go with the two she owns from the 100 dash in Barcelona and Atlanta, Devers pulled up halfway through her semifinal heat of the hurdles.

    Devers said she sustained a partially torn left hamstring at a pre-Olympic meet and was hoping to nurse the injury through the Sydney Games.

    "I thought I could make it through," she said. "It got progressively worse and worse."

    With Dever out of the final, a woman from Kazakstan, who was banned from the Atlanta Games for steroid use, won the gold. Olga Shishigina finished in 12.65 seconds, while Nigerian Glory Alozie took the silver. Alozie's fiance was hit by a car in Sydney and killed days before the games opened.

    Jones returned to the track a day after publicly supporting her husband in the wake of news that he had flunked four drug tests.

    She advanced through two heats of the 200 meters, then qualified for the finals of the long jump - two of the five events she hopes to win at these Olympics. She already took the gold in the 100.

    Jones' husband, shot putter C.J. Hunter, said at a news conference Tuesday that he has never knowingly taken steroids.

    On Wednesday, another field athlete was hit with drug charges.

    Romanian Mihaela Melinte, the world-record holder in the women's hammer throw, got kicked off the infield at Olympic Stadium just before she was to compete because she failed a pre-games drug test.

    American Angelo Taylor won gold in the men's 400-meter hurdles and in women's events, Russia's Irina Privalova won the 400-meter hurdles and Ellina Zvereva of Belarus won the discus with a throw of 224 feet, 5 inches.

  • CYCLING: Shifting gears from the Tour de France to Olympic road racing proved too tough for Lance Armstrong.

    The two-time Tour winner was 13th in the men's road race, well behind gold medalist and former Tour champion Jan Ullrich of Germany. Ullrich comleted the 148-mile course in 5 hours, 29 minutes, 8 seconds. The top American, George Hincapie, finished eighth.

    Armstrong still has a medal chance in Saturday's individual time trial, a stronger event for him than road racing.

  • TAEKWONDO: Kay Poe reached the Olympics because her best friend gave up her spot on the U.S. team. Once Poe was in Sydney, a fighter from Denmark knocked her right back out of medal contention.

    Hanne Hoegh Poulsen upset Poe 4-3 in a first-round flyweight match.

    Poe was the world's top-ranked flyweight going into the U.S. trials last spring. Then she dislocated a kneecap in the semifinals, leaving her unable to compete in the finals against her best friend, Esther Kim.

    Kim decided to forfeit the match, giving the more-accomplished Poe a chance to go to the Olympics. On Wednesday, Kim watched Poe's loss from the stands.

    "We are all proud of her," Kim said. "She hasn't let anyone down."

  • BOXING: Featherweight Rocky Juarez powered past a 1996 Olympic champion and into the Olympic boxing semifinals.

    Juarez, a 1999 world champion, landed 23 scoring blows in the final two rounds and stopped Somluck Kamsing of Thailand on the 15-point rule (31-16) with eight seconds remaining in the 125-pound bout.

    Ricardo Williams Jr. assured himself of at least a bronze medal Wednesday, fighting his way into the 139-pound Olympic boxing semifinals with a 17-12 win over Russia's Alexandre Leonov.

    He became the second American boxer to reach the semifinals, where he will face big-punching Cuban Diogenes Luna on Friday for the right to fight for Olympic gold.

    Williams joined Juarez and 119-pound teammate Clarence Vinson in the semifinals.

  • DIVING: Jenny Keim of Miami and Michelle Davison of Columbia, S.C., trying to give the United States its first Olympic medal in women's springboard diving since 1988, qualified for the final.

    Defending champion Fu Mingxia of China was seeded first after the semifinals with 585.57 points in her bid to become the third diver to win four gold medals.

    Guo Jingjing of China was seeded second with 583.89. Russia's Yulia Pakhalina was the No. 3 seed with 552.51. Keim was the eighth seed with Davison 11th.

  • WATER POLO: The U.S. men's water polo team ended its opening round at the Sydney Games with a 9-3 victory over Greece to gain the quarterfinals as Group B's fourth and final team.

    The United States needed some momentum to bring against Russia in Friday's quarterfinals.

    Aleksandar Sapic ripped a short shot past Hungary's Zoltan Kosz as time ran out, lifting Yugoslavia to a 10-9 victory in Olympic men's water polo.

    Yugoslavia, 4-0-1, clinched a share of the Group B title. Hungary, 3-2-0, will take third in the pool. Both teams already had qualified for Friday's quarterfinals.

  • EQUESTRIAN: For the third straight Olympics, Germany, the Neherlands and the United States finished 1-2-3 in team dressage.

    Germany, which topped the field with 5,638, won its seventh gold medal since 1964.

    Christine Traurig of Carlsbad, Calif., aboard Etienne scored 1,745 on the last combination of the day to secure the bronze for the United States.

  • CANOE-KAYAK: Martin Doktor of the Czech Republic, the 1996 champion in both the canoe 500- and 1,000-meter events, was disqualified from the men's C-1 500 for drifting too close to a competitor. The rule is designed to prevent boats from riding in another's wake.

    Doktor was thrown out after Germany filed a protest accusing him of getting within 5 meters of German Andreas Dittmer, who won the heat. The competition committee agreed.

  • GYMNASTICS: The flap over whether all-around gymnastics winner Andreea Raducan of Romania gets her gold medal back will last at least another day.

    Raducan was stripped of her medal because she took over-the-counter medicine containing a banned stimulant. Romanian officials said the penalty was unfair because the 16-year-old was only trying to cure a cold and took the drug on doctor's orders.

    After a 4-1/2-hour hearing Wednesday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said it would rule on Raducan's case by Thursday.

  • BASKETBALL: Lisa Leslie hit three long jump shots early in the second half to help the U.S. women break away from Slovakia 58-43 and advance to the semifinals of the Olympic tournament. The Americans play South Korea on Friday.

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