US Basketballers Lose Key Contest

Tim Duncan, right, of the United States defends Lithuania's Eurelijus Zukauskas in the first half of a preliminary round game at the Helliniko Indoor Arena in Athens during the 2004 Olympics Games, Aug. 21, 2004.
AP
Redemption came from the perfect spot for Sarunas Jasikevicius.

The Lithuanian guard, whose off-target 3-pointer kept his team from pulling off the biggest upset of the Sydney Olympics, didn't miss when it counted Saturday night in a thrilling 94-90 victory against the United States.

He hit three in a row from behind the arc as the fourth quarter wound down, including a rare four-point play that put his team ahead to stay. He finished with 28 points.

The loss was the second of the Athens Games for the Americans, matching their total from the country's first 68 years of Olympic competition.

But Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson and their teammates still made it to the quarterfinals, due to Greece's Saturday trouncing of Angola, 88-to-56. That clinched a berth in the quarters for the U.S.

The Americans gave their best all-around performance of these Olympics and led for most of the game, but they missed 11 of 33 foul shots to allow Lithuania to stay close.

Lithuania improved to 4-0, clinching the top spot in Group A and joining Spain as the only two unbeaten teams.

Lithuania is now viewed by many experts as the most likely team to win the fold medal.

Fireworks thundered above Vilnius and other Lithuanian towns Saturday night as cheering crowds filled the streets, singing and waving flags in celebration of the victory.

Although no medal was at stake, the win over a team of NBA pros was seen as a great reason for a party. Many considered it revenge for the loss to the Americans in the semifinals at the last Olympics, when Jasikevicius' 3-pointer missed at the buzzer.

In other Olympics developments:

Swimming

The United States won the men's 400-meter medley relay in world-record time Saturday night, giving Michael Phelps his record eighth medal of the Athens Olympics without him getting into the pool.
Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen, Ian Crocker and Jason Lezak won in 3 minutes, 30.68 seconds, lowering the old mark of 3:31.54 set by the Americans at last year's world championships in Barcelona, Spain.

Germany took silver in 3:33.62, while Japan earned bronze in 3:35.22.

Phelps gave up his spot in the final to Crocker, who finished second to the 19-year-old in the 100 butterfly Friday night. Phelps sat with the U.S. team on the pool deck during the final, leading cheers during the race.

He earned a gold for swimming in the preliminaries, giving him six golds and two bronzes in the eight-day swimming competition that ended Saturday night. That ties Soviet gymnast Aleksandr Dityatin's record of eight medals in one Olympics, set at the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games.

Peirsol swam the leadoff backstroke leg in a world-record 53.45 seconds, lowering the mark he already held.

Hansen outswam rival Kosuke Kitajima on the breaststroke leg, touching the wall ahead of the Japanese star. Kitajima swept the 100 and 200 breaststroke races in Athens, while Hansen settled for silver and bronze medals.

Soccer

The Iraqi soccer team is one victory away from an improbable trip to the Olympic podium.

Emad Mohammed's 12-yard bicycle kick in the 64th minute gave Iraq a 1-0 victory over Australia in the quarterfinals Saturday, putting the invaded, war-torn country in position to compete for only its second Olympic medal in the nation's history.

Iraq will play either Paraguay or South Korea in the semifinals in Thessaloniki on Tuesday. Even a loss in the semis would put the Iraqis in the bronze medal game, where they could become the first athletes from their country to win a medal since Abdul Wahid Aziz's weightlifting bronze in Rome in 1960.

"We have spoken to our families already about this victory," Iraqi coach Adnan Hamad said. "They're all very happy. Everybody is out in the streets, ecstatic."

Two more victories would mean a gold medal and a promised $25,000 reward for each player from the recently reinstated Iraqi Olympic Committee. The committee had conceded it may need sponsors to come through with the cash, considering there are 18 players on the roster.

The goal set off jubilant celebrations among more than 1,000 Iraqi supporters, hundreds of whom had been chanting and waving flags since an hour before kickoff.

Gymnastics

Paul Hamm's gold medal has lost its luster.

A scoring mistake at the all-around gymnastics final cost Yang Tae-young the gold that ended up going to Hamm, the International Gymnastics Federation ruled Saturday. The South Korean got the bronze instead.

Three judges were suspended, but the results will not be changed, the federation said. The South Korean Olympic team will ask the Court of Arbitration for Sports to determine if Yang deserves a gold medal.

"We want obvious mistakes to be corrected," said Jae Soon-yoo, an official with the South Korean delegation.

The error Wednesday cost Yang a tenth of a point on his parallel bars score that made the difference between third and first.

South Korea failed to lodge a protest during the event, so the scoring was not changed, said the federation, known as FIG. The South Koreans, however, said they did question the scoring as soon as the routine was over and were told by the judges to file a protest letter after the meet, Jae said.

If the mistake hadn't been made, Hamm would have won the silver and South Korea's Kim Dae-eun would have received the bronze instead of silver.

USA Gymnastics president Bob Colarossi compared the mistake to a bad call in football that wasn't discovered until after the game. He insisted the decision by gymnastics' governing body should not put an asterisk on Hamm's gold medal.

Hamm scored 9.837 on parallel bars and high bar to close the meet, rallying from 12th place to first and becoming the first American man to win the event.

"Paul Hamm's performance the other night was absolutely incredible," Colarossi said. "It's unfortunate the judges didn't have the right start value."

A start value is based on the difficulty of the routine. Yang received a start value of 9.9 on parallel bars, a tenth lower than he got for the same routine in team qualifying and finals.

After reviewing a tape of the all-around, federation officials determined Yang should have been awarded a start value of 10. With the extra 0.10, he would have finished with 57.874 points and defeated Hamm by 0.051.

Matthieu Reeb, general secretary of CAS, talked to the South Korean team about an appeal and expected it to be filed by Sunday. Still, he said it was unclear whether the court would hear the case.

"Our regular practice is that field of play decisions cannot be reviewed by CAS," Reeb said. "We'll see if the Korean delegation has other legal arguments to submit to the court. We haven't had a similar case involving a problem of judging or scoring."

Hamm, practicing Saturday for event finals, was not available for comment. He was asked Thursday about the judging and his close victory.

"I feel like I just barely edged them out," he said. "If you go back and look at the tapes, people can analyze it, and they'll all come to that conclusion, I think."

The case brought back memories of the figure skating scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. A French judge said she was pressured by her federation's chief to favor the Russians in pairs over the Canadians. Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of Canada were ultimately awarded duplicate golds.

In Athens, however, there were no signs of impropriety. The scoring error was made with one event left, and there was no way the judges could have known the significance of reducing Yang's start value on the parallel bars.

Tennis

Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium won the singles gold medal Saturday, beating Amelie Mauresmo of France 6-3, 6-3. Mauresmo won the silver. Alicia Molik of Australia beat Anastasia Myskina of Russia 6-3, 6-4 to win the bronze.

Track and Field

Yuliya Nesterenko of Belarus surged ahead at the finish to capture the Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter dash, nipping Lauryn Williams of the United States and breaking a 20-year-old American stranglehold on the title.

Nesterenko clocked 10.93 seconds, narrowly beating Williams, who timed 10.96. The bronze medal went to Veronica Campbell of Jamaica in 10.97.

Ivet Lalova of Bulgaria, the fastest this year at 10.77, had a blazing start and appeared to be in the lead early before finishing fourth in 11.00.

Before the final, Nesterenko was the only sprinter who also went under 11 seconds in all three heats, although she had never done it before the Olympics.

She was trailing in the final but pulled away in the last 10 meters and dipped forward to clinch the gold.

Nesterenko's only previous medal was the 60-meter bronze at world indoors earlier this year.

She won three races this season, including the Golden League meet in Rome, and her personal best before the Olympics was 11.02.

Christine Arron of France, unbeaten in 11 races this year and one of the favorites, failed to make the final, finishing a distant sixth in her semifinal heat.

Neither of the two veterans made it either. Gail Devers, 37, was seventh behind Arron in the first heat and Merlene Ottey, the 44-year-old former Jamaican now running for Slovenia just missed the final, finishing fifth in the second heat in her seventh and most likely final Olympics.

Sailing

American sailors Paul Foerster and Kevin Burnham have their first Olympic titles. They outmaneuvered British rivals during the final 470 class race to win the gold medal.

Britain got the silver and Japan took bronze.

Foerster won the 470 silver in 2000 and the Flying Dutchman silver in 1992. Burnham, a three-time Olympian, won silver in the 470 in 1992.

The 47-year-old Burnham celebrated the win by doing a back flip into the Saronic Gulf as the boat crossed the finish line. Burnham is the oldest member of the U-S sailing team and has competed in every Olympic trials since 1980.

Equestrian Team Event

France was awarded the gold medal in the three-day equestrian team event after winning an appeal with Britain and the United States against an earlier decision that gave the victory to Germany.

The ruling Saturday by the Court of Arbitration for Sport means Germany drops to fourth while Britain gets silver and the United States takes the bronze.

"I have just been informed of the decision," Gilbert Felli, the International Olympic Committee's executive director, told The Associated Press. "The French and the others won the appeal."

An official statement was expected later Saturday.

Initially, the judges gave Germany the gold and France the silver, while Britain took bronze.

But the same officials, concerned that Germany's Bettina Hoy might have crossed the start line twice on the show-jumping course, then docked Germany 14 points, dropping it from first place to fourth with 147.8 points in a decision that lifted the United States to third.

Germany then lodged a protest and an equestrian appeals committee reversed the judges' decision — and the Germans reclaimed their gold. Again, France was awarded the silver and Britain the bronze. The United States was left empty-handed.

The appeal submitted by the three countries to CAS challenged whether the equestrian appeal committee had the jurisdiction to overturn the judges' decision.

The CAS panel assigned to hear the case was chaired by South African judge Deon van Zyl. Other members included Canada's Richard McLaren and Pandelis Dedes of Greece.

Weightlifting

A female Russian weightlifter was pulled out of the Olympics on Saturday because of a positive drug test, a Russian team official said.

Albina Khomich was barred from competing in Saturday's 75-kilogram heavyweight division by the international weightlifing federation, said Alexander Rattner, a Russian Olympic committee spokesman.

Khomich tested positive in a pre-competition screening by the federation, Rattner said. The backup B sample will be analyzed Sunday to verify the result, he said.

Volleyball

After a miserable Olympics four years ago, the U.S. men's volleyball team has guaranteed a place in the medal round.

A four-set victory Saturday over Australia, combined with Italy's sweep of the Netherlands, sealed a spot for the Americans in the quarterfinals.

Middle blocker Ryan Millar, in his best match of the Olympics, had 17 points to lead the U.S. attack in a 25-19, 23-25, 25-13, 25-19 win.

The Americans (2-2) face top-ranked Brazil on Monday to finish pool play. The Dutch (1-3) were eliminated after failing to win a set against the Italians (3-1).

The Australians fell to 0-4 despite a strong game at the net by Zane Christensen - who had 18 kills. The Americans pulled away in the final two sets - arguably their best two of the tournament.

"A couple points here and there, and we could be 4-0," Millar said.

The Aussies finished eighth as the hosts of the 2000 Games, and middle blocker Daniel Howard was named the tournament's best attacker. They have a fledgling program with limited international experience, but they've earned respect in the Athens Games.

Boxing

Although Vicente Escobedo knew he hadn't boxed well enough to be the unequivocal winner, he was shocked at the margin of his defeat.

The U.S. lightweight was eliminated Friday in a 36-18 loss to Azerbaijan's Rovshan Huseynov, leaving only five of the nine American boxers still in contention. Middleweight Andre Dirrell and flyweight Ron Siler fight for berths in the quarterfinals Saturday.

U.S. boxers in the Olympics are undermined by judging standards that reward precision and technique over creativity. Amateur boxing is based on the judging of five officials who sit near the ring, pushing buttons each time they see a fighter land a punch.

Trouble is, even experts disagree strongly on the quality and effectiveness of even the most routine punches. In any given match, clear blows to fighters' bodies go unrewarded, while phantom head punches are counted as successful blows.

The fighters often leave the ring baffled by the score - and Escobedo was particularly perplexed.