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U.S. Shines In Pool And On Track

American sprinters, in the pool and on the track, dominated the Olympic landscape Friday.

Gary Hall Jr. and Anthony Ervin tied for the gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle, each swimming 21.98 seconds and beating double gold-medalist Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands.

Hoogenband, better known as the Flying Dutchman, took the bronze. Two-time defending champ Alexander Popov of Russia, who defeated Hall in Atlanta, wound up sixth.

Hall and Ervin, just 19, train together in Arizona. They whooped it up together as they walked to collect their medals.

“I don't mind sharing the gold medal podium,” Hall said.

At Olympic Stadium, Marion Jones and Michael Johnson looked like a couple of shiny new sports cars sleek and strong as they began their drives for history with flashes of chrome and gold.

The chrome covered the custom-made shoes Jones wore while cruising to victory in two heats of the women's 100 meters. The 100 is the first of five events in which Jones will try to win gold a feat never before accomplished by a woman at a Summer Games.

“I'm having a ball. I'm 24 years old, I'm in Sydney, I'm running great,” she said.

Johnson, trying to become the first man to win the 400 at consecutive Olympics, strolled once around the track in gold racers the same color he wore in Atlanta four years ago. He had no trouble in his heat, winning in 45.25 and advancing to Saturday's second round.

The woman who lighted the Olympic flame, aboriginal Australian Cathy Freeman, slowed up down the home stretch and still won her heat of the women's 400.

Elsewhere around Sydney:

  • WEIGHTLIFTING: One U.S. weightlifter earned a bronze medal in competition and another had her silver medal elevated to a gold because the Bulgarian who placed first tested positive for a banned drug. Cheryl Haworth, 17, took the bronze in the 165 pounds-plus division behind Ding Meiyuan of China and Agata Wrobel of Poland. In a bit of Olympic alchemy, Tara Nott's silver medal at 105 pounds turned to gold when Izabela Dragneva tested positive for a diuretic. Bulgarian men's bronze medalist Sevdalin Minchev also tested positive, and the International Weightlifting Federation kicked the entire Bulgarian squad out of the games.
  • SOFTBALL: Voodoo, group therapy whatever it takes. After three straight extra-inning losses, the U.S. team held a “cleansing ritual” to get rid of the curse that seemed to be dogging them, then held a team meeting. On Friday, Jennifer Brundage made some luck for the Americans, going 3-for-3 with a homer to help them beat New Zealand 2-0.
  • BOXING: One loss in the ring and another on the scales for the U.S. boxers. Brahim Aslouf of France upset 106-pound world champion Brian Viloria 6-4 and David Jackson was disqualified for being three pounds too heavy when he weighed in for his 132-pound bout. Heavyweiht champ Evander Holyfield visited Jeff Lacy before his fight to give the 165-pounder some inspiration. It worked. Lacy beat Poland's Pawel Kakietek and advanced to the quarterfinals.
  • BASKETBALL: Bigger, faster, stronger. The U.S. women's team emptied its bench in a 93-42 rout of New Zealand. Katie Smith led the Americans with 14 points.
  • EQUESTRIAN: David O'Connor ended a 16-year gold medal-drought for the United States in equestrian competition by winning the individual three-day event. O'Connor rode Custom Made to victory. Australian Andrew Hoy was second and Mark Todd of New Zealand won the bronze.
  • TENNIS: Venus Williams won her second-round singles match as her sister, Serena, led spectators in chants of “USA! USA!” Williams took her 29th consecutive match 6-2, 6-2 over Jana Kandarr of Germany before a crowd that included Chelsea Clinton and Bill Gates. The Williams sisters met Clinton afterward and gave her a USA tennis pin. Second-seeded Venus Williams plays the last person to beat her Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario next. The U.S. men are out of the Olympic tournament. The last American, singles player Jeff Tarango, lost to Argentine Mariano Zabaleta in straight sets.
  • TRACK AND FIELD: World record-holder Maurice Greene breezed through his first two heats of the 100, and so did his training partner, Ato Boldon, the 1996 bronze medalist from Trinidad & Tobago. Defending champ Donovan Bailey of Canada won't be in Saturday's semifinals. He's been fighting a nasty flu bug and slowed down to a trot about halfway through in his second-round heat. Shot putters Adam Nelson and John Godina picked up the first U.S. track and field medals a silver and a bronze. Arsi Harju of Finland won the gold with a toss of 69 feet, 10@1/4 inches.
  • TRAMPOLINE: Russia's Irina Karavaeva bounced her way to a gold medal in a new Olympic sport, trampoline. No Americans made it to the final.
  • SWIMMING: Distance swimmer Brooke Bennett earned a second Sydney gold, flying through the 800 freestyle in an Olympic record 8 minutes, 19.67 seconds. Bennett won the 400 free on Sunday.
  • WATER POLO: Next stop for the U.S. women's polo team the gold medal game. The United States beat the Netherlands 6-5 to advance to Saturday's final against Australia.