Daily Briefing, Aug. 13
What To Watch
Here comes the biggest test of the Games: Can NBC survive without Michael Phelps winning a gold medal? Thankfully there's the Redeem Team, the scrappy band of billionaires who face their first real test of the Games on Thursday (8 a.m. ET) against Greece, an impressive winner over Dirk Nowitzki-led Germany.
Look for the Americans to key on guard Vasileios Spanoulis, who led Panathinaikos of Athens to the Greek basketball double (the Greek Championship and the Greek Cup). Fellow guard Dimitris Diamantidis, who plays with Spanoulis at Panathinaikos, is one of the best defenders in Europe. Keep this in mind: Greece beat the U.S. at the 2006 FIBA World Championship, the last time the two teams met.
"Greece is rugged and fearless and of course the winner over most of these guys in the semis of the Worlds in Japan two years ago," says Sports Illustrated's Alexander Wolff. "Greece ran 42 pick-and-rolls in that game, most featuring their quarterback, Theodoros Papaloukas. If the U.S. is defending the pick-and-roll tomorrow, it bodes well for the rest of the tournament. If not, Argentina, Spain and even Germany, Lithuania and Croatia could give the Americans real problems."
Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor meet Norway's Ingrid Tørlen and Nila Håkedal in women's preliminary pool play (9 p.m. on Wednesday) in beach volleyball.
China's Yang Wei is SI's pick for the men's all-around gymnastics crown, though he'll face strong competition in Germany's Fabian Hambüchen (11 p.m.). The Americans will send out Alexander Artemev and Jonathan Horton (fourth in the all-around at the '07 World Championships).
At the Water Cube the finals include the men's 200 breaststroke (10:03 p.m.), the women's 200 butterfly (10:42 p.m.) and the men's 100 free (10:49 p.m.), where Jason Lesak faces stiff competition in Alain Bernard of France and Australia's Eamon Sullivan, each of whom has held the world record over the past two days. The women's 4x200 freestyle relay (11:32 p.m.) -- led by Katie Hoff -- should be a celebration for the U.S. The Americans have never lost this event in Olympic competition.
The evening swimming session, which begins at 6:30 a.m. ET and is all prelims, is loaded with Ben Wildman-Tobriner (50 free), Ian Crocker and Phelps (100 butterfly), Elizabeth Biesel and Margaret Hoelzer (women's 200 backstroke) and Hoff and Kate Ziegler (800 free). Phelps will swim his heat at 8:18 a.m.
The U.S. men's water polo team looks to avenge its loss to Serbia in the gold-medal match of the '08 FINA World League Super Final as the two teams meet at 10:50 p.m. in a preliminary match. Nearly 12 hours later (10 a.m.), the U.S. men's volleyball team looks to extend its record to 3-0 against Bulgaria at Capital Indoor Stadium. The winner will take the lead in Pool A.
Two games, two no-hitters. Will anyone get a hit off the U.S. softball team? Canada takes its shot at noon at the Fengtai Softball Field.
Wrestling finals include men's Greco-Roman 84kg, 96kg and 120kg.
The U.S. went gold (Mariel Zagunis), silver (Sada Jacobsen) and bronze (Becca Ward) in women's individual sabre, so needless to say we like the chances of the Americans in the women's team sabre competition. The U.S. squad will take on South Africa in the quarterfinals at 9:30 p.m. The finals are at 7 a.m. Zagunis is the first American in 100 years to win an Olympic gold medal in fencing.
Quote of the Day
"Now I'm going to put all my energy into it, fighting this battle. I'm going to attack it the same way I did swimming and I'm going to get it the hell out of me."
Anti-Quote of the Day
"I have no proof that they are underage, but it could be, as one of the girls has a missing tooth. If it's true, then it's unfair. Three of the girls look so ... oh la la."
SI staffers weigh in on the television coverage and hot button issues surrounding the Games.
Larry Burke throws his hat into the ring regarding the gymnastics age controversy. "What's the big deal?" he asks. "The U.S. lost to the Chinese fair and square, regardless of age. Would there be any questions had the U.S. held on and won the gold? I doubt it."
What We're Reading Around The Web
1. Australian official accuses British swimmers of bad hygiene (by Andy Burnham, The Guardian): The hygiene wars are heating up at the Games.
2. China's media wins gold for downplaying negative news (by David Bandurski, China Media Project): The local media is rose-colored, says the author.
3. You've won the medal, now visit the country (by Alistair Thomson, Reuters): Togo won its first-ever Olympic medal when Benjamin Boukpeti picked up a surprise bronze in the men's slalom kayak event. Now the kayaker says he's going to visit Togo ... for the first time since he was a child.