US swimmers beat history

The United States broke swimming’s oldest record in winning the women’s 800-meter freestyle relay last night for the third consecutive Olympics. Natalie Coughlin, Carly Piper, Dana Vollmer and Kaitlin Sandeno finished in a world-record seven minutes, 53.42 seconds – more than two seconds better than the mark of 7:55.47 set 17 years to the date by the former East Germany on August 18, 1987. China earned silver in 7:55.97 and Germany took bronze in 7:57.35. The US won the event in 1996 and 2000 – the only other times it’s been contested in the Olympics. The Americans are also the reigning world champions. Piper was the only swimmer retained from the morning preliminaries, when the Americans had the fastest time. Lindsay Benko, Rhi Jeffrey and Rachel Komisarz earned gold medals, too, for their preliminary swims. Pieter van den Hoogenband won the men’s 100-meter freestyle final to successfully defend the title he won in Sydney. The flying Dutchman flashed up and down the pool in a slick 48.14 seconds, just three-tenths of a second outside the world record of 47.84 he set at the last Games four years ago. South African Roland Schoeman finished second in 48.23 to add a silver to the gold he won in the 4×100 freestyle relay. Australian Ian Thorpe collected bronze in 48.56 to go with the two golds and the one silver he has already won in Athens. Otylia Jedrzejczak of Poland won her third medal of the Olympics, overtaking Australia’s Petria Thomas to win gold in the 200-meter butterfly. Thomas was under world-record pace halfway through the race, building a body-length lead, but Jedrzejczak had enough left to overtake the Aussie in the final 50. The winner touched in 2:06.05, just off her own world mark of 2:05.78 set two years ago. Jedrzejczak avenged a loss to Thomas in the 100 fly, winning the first gold medal of her career. Thomas settled for silver at 2:06.36, while Japan’s Yuko Nakanishi edged out Sandeno for the bronze at 2:08.04. Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima let his swimming do the talking, beating archrival Brendan Hansen in the men’s 200-meter breaststroke to win his second gold medal of the Athens Olympics. Angered at American accusations he had used an illegal dolphin kick in his charge to the 100 gold on the weekend, Kitajima stormed to victory to clock an Olympic record of two minutes, 09.44 seconds. American Hansen, whose 23rd birthday party was gate-crashed by Kitajima on Sunday, had to settle for the bronze behind 15-year-old Hungarian Daniel Gyurta. In back-to-back stunners at the Olympic tennis tournament, both Andy Roddick and defending gold medalist Venus Williams were upset yesterday. Roddick lost to No. 16 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 6-4, 6-4, and Mary Pierce of France beat Williams 6-4, 6-4. For the first time since tennis returned to the Olympics as a medal sport in 1988, no US woman will win a singles medal. That’s because in addition to Williams’s exit, No. 16 Chanda Rubin lost to No. 2 Amelie Mauresmo of France 6-3, 6-1, and Lisa Raymond was eliminated by Alicia Molik of Australia 6-4, 6-4. (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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