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Sydney Olympics Take Bizarre Twist

Unfortunately, some of Thursday's most compelling action at the Olympic Games took place away from the playing surfaces.

Defending tennis gold medalist Lindsay Davenport withdrew from the Olympics with an injured left foot and French track star Marie-Jose Perec departed Sydney under strange circumstances.

Davenport, the champion in Atlanta and top seed at the Sydney Games, defaulted her second-round match Thursday, ending her hopes of a second consecutive medal. She had aggravated her sprained foot in a first-round victory over Paola Suarez.

Davenport's surprising decision was announced just before she was to take the court against Rossana De Los Rios of Paraguay.

"To have to pull out of a tournament that's probably the highlight of my career, it's devastating," Davenport said.

Earlier, French track star Perec - dubbed the "Greta Garbo of athletics" - pulled a disappearing act.

The reclusive 1996 gold medalist fled Australia for Singapore after she was threatened by a man who burst into her Sydney hotel room, according to her main sponsor. There were no further details provided on the mysterious incident.

After holding out hope all day that Perec somehow would return to the Olympics, the French team announced Thursday that she had withdrawn from the games.

"The French delegation regrets that an athlete who has brought so much to Olympism in general, and to French sports in particular, is not participating in the Sydney Games," said a statement released by the French Olympic delegation.

The statement also said Perec's departure had nothing to do with drug tests and that she had not been subjected to an out-of-competition drug test before the games.

Perec, who suffers from a rare disease that causes chronic fatigue, had surprised French Olympic officials by disappearing from her hotel room. Since arriving in Sydney, she had dodged the media and refused to train with the French team; the Australian media quickly compared her to the ultra-private Garbo.

Perec was the defending champion in the 200 and 400 meters, making her only the second woman ever to complete that double.

The American medal drought continued in gymnastics, but former Olympic great Nadia Comaneci must be proud.

Andreea Raducan led a Romanian sweep in the women's all-around competition and became the first woman from her nation to win the event since Comaneci in 1976.

Raducan finished with 38.893 points, while her teammates Simona Amanar and Maria Olaru took the silver and bronze medals. Elise Ray was the top American finisher in 14th place.

The stunning struggles of the U.S. women's softball team continued as the team fell into a state of shocked disbelief after a third bitter loss in as many games. These losses essentially erase memories of the team's 112-game winning streak.

Lisa Fernandez surrendered a two-run homer as Australia rallied in the bottom of the 13th inning to win 2-1 ovr the numbed Americans, who had taken the lead in the top of the inning.

"It's like this voodoo that's over us," the American Christie Ambrosi said. "But it's got to end sometime."

Fernandez lost despite striking out 25 and surrendering just two hits. The defeat will, at minimum, cost the Americans (2-3) a bye in the medal round.

Everything fell into place Thursday to set up the most anticipated fight of the Sydney Games. U.S. 201-pounder Michael Bennett, won his Olympic debut to advance to a quarterfinal showdown with Cuban heavyweight great Felix Savon.

"You're going to see two great warriors do battle," Bennett said. "I have all the confidence in the world."

Bennett, 29, who started fighting after his July 1998 release from prison, scored an 11-2 decision over Wojciech Bartnik of Poland. Savon, trying to join fellow Cuban Teofilo Stevenson and Lazlo Papp of Hungary as three-time boxing gold medalists, defeated Rasmus Ojemaye of Nigeria.

The first 10 American boxers in the ring have all won. Bennett faces Savon next week.

Atlanta gold medalist Donovan Bailey may join Davenport on the sidelines. A viral infection had greatly slowed the one-time world's fastest man.

"He's congested, he's not feeling well," Bailey's agent, Ray Flynn, said Thursday morning. "He's not feeling 100 percent by any means. He's got flu-like symptoms."

Competition in the 100 meters begins Friday, and Bailey was hopeful that he could be ready.

"I've been in bed for two days," Bailey said. "Psychologically, I'm very strong. But it's the physical thing I have to deal with."

The United States continued to enjoy success in the Olympic pool.

Lenny Krayzelburg captured Olympic swimming gold No. 2 for himself Thursday after swimming an Olympic record 1 minute, 56.76 seconds in the 200-meter backstroke. The Ukrainian immigrant won the 100 backstroke Monday.

Another American, 17-year-old Aaron Peirsol, took the silver.

Jenny Thompson, who tied with teammate Dara Torres, captured a bronze medal in the 100-meter freestyle, behind Inge de Bruijn of the Netherlands and Sweden's Therese Alshammar.

The medal raised Thompson's total medal count to nine, including seven relay golds. She's now the most decorated woman swimmer in history, surpassing Dawn Fraser of Australia, German Kornelia Ender and American Shirley Babashoff, who have eight each.

Thompson, 27, stuck with swimming after the Atlanta Games to try to win a gold all by herself. Now that opportunity is gone.

"The individual gold medal wasn't in the cards, I guess," she said. "I know I did the best I could."

Dolan won the 400 individual medley Sunday, but said he was hurting down the stretch Thursday.

"I didn't have speed or strength to go that fast," he said.

Thanks to the swimmers, the United States increased its lead in the medal count Thursday. The mericans finished the day with 31 medals (11 gold, 10 silver, 10 bronze) to 25 for Australia (8-9-8). France (7-9-4) and Russia (4-8-8) each had 20.

Both American duos reached the quarterfinals in women's beach volleyball. Jenny Johnson Jordan - with her father, Olympic decathlon champion Rafer Johnson, sitting amid the sellout crowd - and Annett Davis rallied with a nine-point run to defeat Cuba's Dalixia Fernandez and Tamara Larrea 15-9, while Holly McPeak and Misty May pulled out a 15-13 win over Italians Daniela Gattelli and Lucilla Perrotta.

For the first time ever, somebody challenged a Dream Team.

The U.S. men led by only five points in the final minute before beating Lithuania 85-76, the closest Olympic victory ever for an American team stocked with NBA stars. The Dream Teamers never won by less than 22 points in the last two Olympics.