Daily briefing, Aug. 22
What to Watch
The Redeem Team isn't the only basketball juggernaut in Beijing: The U.S. women have won 32 consecutive Olympic games and will be a heavy favorite in Saturday's gold-medal final (10 a.m. ET) against Australia (7-0), the team they defeated in the finals in both Sydney and Athens. Prior to dispatching Russia 67-52 in the semifinals, the U.S. had won its first six games by an average of 43 points.
"The U.S. and Australia know each other very well," says Sports Illustrated's Kelli Anderson. "Several of the Opals' players play in the WNBA, and the teams have more similarities than differences. Both teams like to run, and each has great outside shooters and strong, mobile post players. Depth is where the U.S. trumps Australia: The Opals go about eight deep, while everyone on the U.S. squad plays at least 10 minutes, but no more than 20. I'd expect the U.S. to focus on rebounding, taking care of the ball and playing tenacious team defense. If the U.S. can execute on offense with more calm and less adrenaline than we saw on Thursday against Russia, they should leave Beijing with their fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal."
Defending champion Argentina meets Nigeria in the men's soccer gold medal game (midnight). Led by international stars Sergio Agüero, Lionel Messi and Juan Román Riquelme, Argentina has rolled in this tournament, including a 3-0 rout of Brazil in the semifinal. The final is a rematch of the 1996 Olympic final, won by Nigeria.
Cuba plays Korea in the gold-medal game in baseball (6 a.m. ). That's after Japan plays the U.S. for the bronze medal (10:30 p.m.).
Chaunte Howard of the U.S. is the lone American in the women's high jump final (7 a.m.). Croatia's Blanka Vlasic is the one to beat.
Finland's Tero Pitkämäki is SI's pick for gold in the men's javelin final (7:10 a.m.). Countryman Tero Järvenpää and Norway's Andreas Thorkildsen will also be in contention.
Kenya's Wilfred Bungei and Sudan's Abrubaker Kaki-Khamis should among the leaders heading home in the men's 800 final (7:30 a.m.). Defending Olympic champion Yuri Borzakovsky, silver medalist Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and world indoor champion and outdoor points leader Abubaker Kaki all failed to qualify for the final.
Ethiopia-born Swiss resident Maryam Yusuf Jamal of Bahrain -- the world champion in the event -- is the favorite in the women's 1,500 final (7:50 a.m.). Shannon Rowbury is the lone American in the race.
Sascha Klein of Germany is SI's pick to win the men's 10-meter platform diving final (8 a.m.).
In one of the emerging stories of the final week of the Olympics, the U.S. women's volleyball team meets Brazil in the gold medal match (8 a.m.). U.S. star Logan Tom is the top scorer in the tournament, with 81 spikes, 19 blocks and eight service aces. Brazil hasn't dropped a set during the Games. It's the country's first Olympic women's volleyball final. The U.S. and Brazil have played 31 times in major FIVB competitions -- the Brazilians hold a 16-15 lead. The U.S. last played in a Olympic women's volleyball final 24 years ago.
The 5,000 final (8:10 a.m.) has a loaded field: Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, Thomas Pkemei Longosiwa and Moses Ndiema Masai of Kenya and American Bernard Lagat.
A big one for the home country: China's Wang Hao and Ma Lin, the world's No. 1- and No. 2-ranked players, seek gold in the finals (8:30 a.m.) of men's singles table tennis. Wang plays Jörgen Persson of Sweden in the first semifinal (10:00 p.m., Friday) while Ma plays China's Wang Lingin in the later semifinal (11:00 p.m., Friday)
The Americans dropped the baton in both 4x100 relays. Perhaps redemption will come in the women's 4x400 relay final (8:40 a.m.) and men's 4x400 final (9:05 a.m.). This is the last race on the track and field program at the Games.
Gold medals will also be awarded in men's (3 a.m.) and women's cross-country mountain cycling (10 p.m. ET on Friday). Americans Georgia Gould and Mary McConneloug will be part of the women's field of 30 while Adam Craig and Todd Wells of the U.S. will compete in the men's field.
Quote of the Day
"This is my way of doing my business and, I think in doing so, I just did the Korean team a favor."
What We're Reading Around The Web
1. Hacker uncovers "proof" that Chinese gymnast is underage (by Jane Macartney, The Times of London): In search of the truth in gymnastics.
2. Jennie Finch goes out on a losing note (by Sean Gregory, Time Magazine): "You know, I feel like we let USA softball down," the pitcher tells Gregory. "Many women have worn this uniform, and accepted nothing but gold. So many thoughts. What more could I have done? And then, can this be the last time that softball players stand on the podium at the Olympic games? The unknown [future] of our sport, all those young girls watching us, and all the many people who've supported me. I haven't seen my son in a month and a half, I can't wait to see his little face when I get home ... so many things."
3. Sex and the Olympic city (by Matthew Syed, The Times): Writes Syed, a former Olympic table tennis player for Great Britain: "I am often asked if the Olympic village -- the vast restaurant and housing conglomeration that hosts the world's top athletes for the duration of the Games -- is the sex-fest it is cracked up to be. My answer is always the same: too right it is."