American Kami Craig celebrates one of her four goals against Spain on Wednesday. (Jeff J. Mitchell / Getty…)
LONDON — The standard first-Olympics reverie and the way it blurs the fringes of things thwarts any attempt Kami Craig makes at detailing differences between 2008 and 2012. She'd love to offer a memory, a reference point. She just can't.
Whatever happened in Beijing apparently stayed in Beijing.
"I don't remember anything!" Craig said with a laugh. "Just eyes wide open, going out there knowing my role on the team and doing exactly that."
PHOTOS: London Olympics, Day 5
For the moment, the starting point is how she finished at the Water Polo Arena on Wednesday: Scoring four goals in the United States' 9-9 tie with Spain, matching her total from the silver-medal run in 2008 and giving her five overall so far in 2012, a world-class center in the middle of it all.
Letting a three-goal, fourth-quarter lead slip was reason for angst. But so, too, were the lackluster first half and two-goal deficit that Craig helped erase.
The former USC star and two-time national player of the year scored three third-quarter goals and then drew the exclusion that led to a score and a three-goal lead midway through the fourth.
"That's how she always plays, really," U.S. Coach Adam Krikorian said. "We know what we're going to get from Kami. She's one of the best centers in the world and one of the best players in the world. Nothing new."
Nineteen-year-old Maggie Steffens debuted with seven goals in the first outing here for the U.S., but this was likely the more reliable route to another medal: Feeding the steady finisher in the middle.
"The girls did a great job working the ball around, finding me, and putting that ball right where I need it," Craig said. "Having one Olympics under your belt definitely prepares you for the next — just being a little bit more calm out there, not so excited being the baby on the team."
There was frustration in wasting goalie Betsey Armstrong's glimmering second half, which featured a rare penalty shot save in the third quarter. Two U.S. exclusions in the final two minutes helped Spain draw even.
"We always draw a lot of energy from our defense anyway, so we were able to carry that momentum forward," Armstrong said. "But Spain is a good team. You can't get comfortable at any point in the game, no matter what."