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ATHENS 2004 | Up Next

Phelps Stirs Competition

August 16, 2004|Lisa Dillman; Diane Pucin

Here, in capsule form, are the events that will be highlighted today in Athens:

Swimming

So, it's Michael Phelps versus Ian Thorpe. Is there room for anyone else in the pool?

Well, yes.

Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands could be the spoiler -- again. Four years ago, the Dutchman ruined Thorpe's home coronation by upsetting him in the 200-meter freestyle at Sydney, and Van den Hoogenband had the fastest qualifying time for tonight's final in the 200.

There are three other finals: the women's 100 backstroke, the men's 100 backstroke and women's 100 breaststroke. Natalie Coughlin is the fastest-qualifier in the 100 back and is going for her first individual gold medal.

World champion Aaron Peirsol and defending Olympic champion Lenny Krayzelburg will be racing in the 100 back, and Tara Kirk and Amanda Beard are in the finals of the 100 breaststroke.

-- Lisa Dillman

Men's Gymnastics

The U.S. team, aiming for its first team Olympic medal since the boycotted 1984 Los Angeles Games, qualified second behind Japan.

Defending world champion China was fourth with European champion Romania third. Paul Hamm, 21, of Waukesha, Wis., led the U.S. in qualifying and will be the last U.S. gymnast to compete tonight. The Americans will finish on high bar and Paul Hamm does a spectacular high bar set.

Each team can chose only three of its six athletes to compete on each of six apparatus: vault, parallel bars, pommel horse, high bar, still rings and floor exercise.

Paul Hamm will represent the U.S. in five of six events, skipping only still rings. Blaine Wilson and Jason Gatson of Upland will compete on still rings and parallel bars.

The Chinese, who have won five of the last six world championships as well as the 2000 Olympics, will be led by Yang Wei, who finished second to Paul Hamm at last year's world championships in the all-around.

Also in the finals are Russia, Ukraine, Germany and Korea.

-- Diane Pucin

Softball

The U.S. team, unbeaten and unscored upon, will try for victory No. 3 against Japan.

Japan is 1-1 after losing to Australia in its opener Saturday and defeating Taiwan on Sunday. Japan upset the U.S., 2-1, in 11 innings in preliminary-round play in Sydney, but the U.S. rebounded to beat Japan, 2-1, in an eight-inning game in the finale.

The teams also played two close games at the 2002 World Softball Championships. The U.S. won, 1-0, each time, the first time in nine innings. The U.S. is 17-4 in Olympic play since softball became part of the Olympic program at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

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