Nation & World

Roundup: U.S. stays perfect in softball; Phelps' roll continues

BEIJING - Two games into the 2008 Olympic softball tournament, the United States has yet to allow a run.

Which would be impressive, were it not for the fact the USA hasn't given up a hit, either.

Left-handed starter Cat Osterman held Australia hitless over seven innings Wednesday at Fengtai Softball Field, a day after fellow pitchers Monica Abbott and Jennie Finch didn't allow a hit during a five-inning thumping of Venezuela.

While the group effort on Wednesday was more a box-score quirk than a memorable achievement, Osterman's was a legitimate no-no thrown against a longtime force in international softball.

Osterman struck out 13 in the 3-0 victory, and those who did make contract were unable to drove the ball beyond the infield.

Earlier Wednesday morning (Tuesday night in the North America), Michael Phelps was supposed to have one of his easiest days, Then he dived into the pool for his 200 fly and encountered a slight problem with his eyewear.

"I dove in and they filled right up with water," Phelps said of his goggles. "It got worse and worse as the race went on. At the 150 (meter) wall to the finish, I couldn't see the wall. I was hoping I was winning and hoping I would touch the wall first."

No worries. He not only touched the wall first but broke his own world record in the event with a time of 1 minute, 52.03 seconds.

It not only put Phelps halfway to the eight gold-medal mark in one Games that the world so eagerly anticipates him reaching, but it made him the most golden Olympic athlete of all time.

The 10th gold medal in his career broke a tie Phelps held with four other athletes, including Spitz and American track legend Carl Lewis. It also tied him with fellow American swimmer Jenny Thompson for the most medals, 12, for any U.S. Olympian. He would later grab and 11th gold and 13th medal overall with the U.S. men's convincing win in the 800-meter freestyle relay, making him the winningest U.S. Olympian ever.

Phelps' world record was one of six world records set in Wednesday morning's session (Tuesday night in the States). And it was just his first of the day.

When he stepped foot on the starting block for the 800 relay, Phelps was near certain his team would set another world mark. It was just a matter of how far under the 7:03.24 U.S. mark from the 2007 world championships the group would go.

Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Ricky Berens and Peter Vanderkaay ended up smashing the record by more than four seconds, coming in at 6:58.56, more than five seconds ahead of the second-place Russians.

When the men's semifinals were through, the records continued to drop.

American Katie Hoff, who qualified second for in the 200 free and was swimming out of lane five, swam an American record of 1:55.78.

And that was still only good enough for fourth place, as Italian Federica Pellegrini set the world record with a time of 1:54.82. Pellegrini had set the world record two days earlier in a preliminary race, and the top three finishers in the final were all under the that previous world record mark.

After Stephanie Rice set the world record in the 200 IM with a time of 2:08.45, beating out Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe and American Natalie Coughlin, who secured bronze, there were five individual world records times set in this session alone. And when the U.S. men ended the day with a blistering 800 freestyle relay, it was a total of six.

There were no world records set in the semifinals of the men's 200 breast, but American Scott Spann finished with the third-best qualifying time for the final in 2:09.08, behind Japan's Kosuke Kitajima and Canada's Mike Andrew Brown.

In women's gymnastics:

The biggest, fiercest rivalry between the U.S. and Chinese Olympic teams involves the tiniest athletes on both teams, the pony-tailed pixies with rock-hard muscles and nerves of steel. Women's gymnastics is one sport in which the U.S. and China both dominate, and this city prides itself on its spectacular acrobatics shows, so Wednesday's women's team final was the hottest ticket in town.

A crowd of 18,000 packed the National Indoor Stadium to see the showdown between the past two world champions, and it lived up to expectations. Hundreds of fans chanting "U-S-A!'' and waving American flags were drowned out by the deafening cheers of the hometown fans.

The loudest cheer was yet to come. China won the gold medal thanks to brilliant bar routines, few mistakes, and two critical errors by U.S. gymnast Alicia Sacramone, a 20-year-old Brown University student and the team's emotional leader.

Sacramone fell as she got onto the beam, and fell during her floor exercise. The most expressive gymnast on the U.S. team, Sacramone buried her head into her hands as her floor score (14.1) was posted. So long as China performed well on floor, they would win the title, and that they did. The event ended with a flawless routine by Cheng Fei, and the Chinese fans erupted from their seats.

In the women's cycling time trial, Kristin Armstrong capture the gold. The Boise, Idaho cyclist . She covered the course in 34:51.72, more than 24 seconds faster than silver medalist Emma Pooley of Great Britain.

"It's the ride of my life,'' Armstrong told the Olympic News Service. "It's what I've dreamed about since I was a little kid. I had to stay focused on the descent and really push.

"We (Armstrong and Poole) were only four seconds apart on the climb."

She became the second U.S. women to win a cycling gold, joining Connie Carpenter-Phinney won won in the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

"The course was very difficult," she said. I came here in December to learn the climb. It's an untraditional course for a time trial. ... It was about climbing well, the power-to-weight ratio and having a really light bike."

In the men's time trial, Levi Leipheimer won the bronze medal.

Also Wednesday:

— The U.S. women's water polo team played to a 9-9 tie with Italy.

Related stories from Vida en el Valle