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Posted: Sunday August 17, 2008 12:34PM; Updated: Sunday August 17, 2008 11:56PM
Richard Deitsch Richard Deitsch >
INSIDE OLYMPICS

Daily Briefing, Aug. 17

Story Highlights
  • Liu Xiang is China's first male gold medalist in any track and field event
  • Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva is heavy favorite in women's pole vault
  • Usain Bolt, fresh off his gold in the 100m, will run his 200 heat
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Perhaps no athlete is under more pressure than Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang, whose image is everywhere in Beijing.
Perhaps no athlete is under more pressure than Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang, whose image is everywhere in Beijing.
China Photos/Getty Images

What To Watch

Enough with Michael Phelps. See you in 2012, pal. With the Spitzian quest fulfilled and NBC executives bloated on ratings, American eyes turn to track and field and team sports over the next week. Two marquee men will race Monday in Beijing: After setting a world record in the 100, Usain Bolt runs his opening 200 heat (10:33 p.m.) while China's Liu Xiang steps onto to the track at the Bird's Nest for the first time at 11:10 p.m. Liu is his country's first male Olympic gold medalist in any track and field event and the first Chinese hurdler to successfully compete with the best in the world. You can argue no athlete in the history of modern athletics has had more pressure on him to win than Liu. "The Chinese people care, not because they understand this particular track event," U.S. Olympic team manager James Li told Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden last month. Li was born and educated in China and now is the coach of U.S. distance runner Bernard Lagat. "They care because they think he's going to be the winner," Li said. "This is just my personal view of the country, but I really believe there is something in the national psyche that desires a winner. The country had been so proud and then was beaten up by other world powers -- [it] is almost like this one track race would redeem the country. And that's the pressure on Liu Xiang."

Other highlights (ALL TIMES EST):

• Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva, the defending Olympic champion, is a heavy favorite to win the women's pole vault final (7:20 a.m.). The top contender for the U.S. is Jennifer Stuczynski, the American record holder. The women's discus final begins at 7:00 a.m.

Walter Dix, who won a bronze in the 100, will run his 200 heat at 10:26 p.m. U.S. medal hopefuls Shawn Crawford (10:05 p.m.) and Wallace Spearman (10:40 p.m.) also compete in opening heats.

• Along with Liu, U.S. hopefuls David Oliver and Terrence Trammell and Cuba's Dayron Robles (11:10 p.m.) take their first steps in the 110 hurdles competition.

Emma Snowsill of Australia is the favorite in the women's triathlon final (10:00 p.m.).

• SI's pick to win the men's 3000 steeplechase final (9:10 p.m.) is Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya.

• The prediction here is that the U.S. will sweep the men's 400 hurdle final (10:00 a.m.) with Kerron Clement, Bershawn Jackson and Angelo Taylor.

• The women's uneven bars final (6:43 a.m.) features Olympic all-around champ Nastia Liukin of the U.S.

• American diver Troy Dumais competes in the men's 3-meter competition (7 :00 a.m.) preliminaries at the Water Cube. Dumais placed sixth on the 3-meter in both Sydney and Athens.

• Plenty of team action, including The Redeem Team -- smashing opponents by an average of 28.0 per game. The U.S. plays a meaningless final pool game against Germany (1-3), who has flamed out despite the presence of Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman. The U. S. women's soccer team can advance to the gold medal game with a win over Japan (9:00 a.m.). Big game: The U.S. men's water polo needs to defeat Germany at the Ying Tung Natatorium (2:00 a.m.) to move on to quarterfinal play.

• In a diamond doubleheader of sorts: The U.S. softball competes pool play against China (noon) while the U.S. baseball meet the host country at 7:00 a.m.

Go Figure

240 million
Estimated audience in China for the U.S.-China women's volleyball match on Friday, the most-watched program of the day, according to CSM media research group.

9,167
Age difference in days between Dara Torres (silver in the 50 free) of the U.S. and Australia's Cate Campbell (bronze), the biggest age gap between any two medalists in an individual swimming event.

$41,600
Final bid for the Beijing Olympic torch, according to China Guardian Auctions Co LTD Olympic-theme auction

Quote of the Day

"I want to be the first Michael Phelps, not the second Mark Spitz. Never once will I ever downplay the accomplishments of Spitz. What he did still is an amazing feat and will always be an amazing accomplishment in the swimming world and also the Olympics. Being able to have something like that to shoot for made those days when you were tired and didn't want to be there, when you just wanted to go home and sleep and not work out, it made those days easier."
-- Michael Phelps, after winning his eighth gold medal of the Beijing Games

Anit-Quote of the Day

"They are all mentally weak. Technically and physically they are really good. There are no differences between Chinese and European fencers. Only the Chinese always feel scared."
-- China fencing coach Christian Bauer, a Frenchman, on his team's inner toughness

Beijing Blog

While Michael Mania reigns in the U.S. and much of the world, in China, Phelps' rising star may never eclipse the heights already attained by some of China's native sons and daughters, who to their 1.3 billion countrymen are the true stars of these Olympic Games," says SI.com's Ted Keith.

What We're Reading Around The Web

1. The Glory Of Just Showing Up (By Barry Newman, The Wall Journal Journal). Among the 222 countries that have sent athletes to the modern Games since 1896, only 130 have brought a medal home.

2. What do Usain and Asafa mean? What's in a name? The Jamaican Star knows all.

3. Michael Phelps great-but not the greatest (By Phil Hersh, Chicago Tribune). The writer argues that Phelps is No. 6 on the all-time list.

 
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