U.S. Swimmers Shatter Records To Win Gold

U.S. swimmer Natalie Coughlin celebrates her win in the women's 100-meter backstroke final. i i

hide captionU.S. swimmer Natalie Coughlin celebrates her win in the women's 100-meter backstroke final at the Olympic Games in Beijing, Aug. 12, 2008.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
U.S. swimmer Natalie Coughlin celebrates her win in the women's 100-meter backstroke final.

U.S. swimmer Natalie Coughlin celebrates her win in the women's 100-meter backstroke final at the Olympic Games in Beijing, Aug. 12, 2008.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Competing For Gold

Qin Xiao of China competes in the horizontal bar. i i

hide captionQin Xiao of China competes in the horizontal bar in the men's Olympic gymnastics final, which his team won, Aug. 12, 2008, in Beijing.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Qin Xiao of China competes in the horizontal bar.

Qin Xiao of China competes in the horizontal bar in the men's Olympic gymnastics final, which his team won, Aug. 12, 2008, in Beijing.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Michael Phelps rocketed into the water at the Summer Olympics, leaving no doubt that he was going to win the 200-meter freestyle, but he clinched it by sinking his own world record. The American's third record-breaking performance in as many days earned him a third gold medal at these games and kept alive his quest for a record eight golds in Beijing.

It also leaves him tied with Olympic legends such as Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis with nine career gold medals.

American swimmers heard the clink of gold and silver for much of the day at the Water Cube. Aaron Peirsol also broke his own world record to take gold in the men's 100-meter backstroke, while his U.S. teammate Matt Grevers scooped up the silver.

Natalie Coughlin defended her own title in the Olympic 100-meter backstroke, breaking a U.S. record as she did so. Coughlin was spurred to break the record by a field in which six of the eight finalists swam the distance in less than a minute. World record holder Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe came in second, and American Margaret Hoelzer was third.

'High Risk, High Rewards' For U.S. Gymnasts

As expected, China's team dominated the men's gymnastics competition, coming back from a humiliating collapse at the 2004 games in Athens. The Chinese men performed with supreme confidence and gyroscopic precision, finishing more than seven points ahead of the silver-medal winners, Japan.

The American men's team was elated by an improbable third-place finish, achieved without the help of Olympic veterans Paul and Morgan Hamm. U.S. coach Kevin Mazeika said the team was energized by the challenge. "They're high-risk, high-rewards," he said.

U.S. Women Rout Venezuela In Softball

The U.S. women's softball team began its quest for a fourth-straight Olympic gold medal by crushing Venezuela so convincingly that the game was called after five innings. The Americans set an Olympic record for the most runs scored in a game as they ran the score to 11-0.

The power of the American team left fans wondering whether they'd run up against any serious competition in these games, but two-time gold medalist Crystl Bustos said teams from Canada, Japan and China are closing the gap. "I don't take anything for granted," she said.

The U.S. boxing team suffered a disappointment when world-champion flyweight Rau'shee Warren lost his first bout to South Korea's Lee Ok-sung in a 9-to-8 upset. Warren, a veteran of the Athens Olympics, was considered the likeliest of the U.S. boxers to win a medal. Welterweight Demetrius Andrade, also considered a possible medalist, barely edged past his first opponent on Sunday.

So far, the U.S. leads the overall Olympic medal count with 21, with host nation China in second place with 20. China is far and away the leader in gold medals, with 13 to America's seven.

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