NPR logo U.S. Athletes Shine Golden In Individual Sports

U.S. Athletes Shine Golden In Individual Sports

Changing Home Teams

More and more athletes and coaches are representing countries other than their native ones.

Full Olympics Coverage

Competing For Gold

The 11th day of the Olympic Games in Beijing saw Americans take gold medals with individual displays of strength, skill and strategy, while U.S. teams advanced toward their final rounds. China and the U.S. piled up more medals, but the host country maintained its lead in gold.

American gymnast Shawn Johnson edged teammate Nastia Liukin to win the gold medal on the balance beam. Although she's the reigning women's world champion, the 16-year-old Johnson had second-place finishes in the all-around, floor exercises and team event at the Olympics. She finally got her gold with a difficult and daring routine on the beam that topped Liukin's artistic performance. The bronze went to Cheng Fei of China.

Chinese gymnast Li Xiaopeng won his second gold medal of these games, with a near-perfect performance on the parallel bars. Yoo Wonchul of South Korea won the silver medal, with a routine that was more difficult but lacked Li's precision.

China's Zou Kai edged out American Jonathan Horton on the horizontal bar to win his third gold medal. Zou's other wins came in the men's team and floor exercise events.

Horton said after the competition that he had decided to risk a new routine that required him to successfully complete three tricky release moves.

"I wouldn't have medaled without it," he said.

American Finds Gold On The Mat

Henry Cejudo, a relative rookie in freestyle wrestling, claimed gold in the 55 kg class amid a field that included former world champions. The 21-year-old from Colorado Springs, Colo., defeated Japan's Tomohiro Matsunaga, the 2008 Asian champion, to win in the class for wrestlers under 121 pounds.

Cejudo, the son of undocumented Mexican immigrants, said his victory was a product of training "the American way."

British-born Anna Tunnicliffe won gold for the U.S. in the tippy mini sailboat known as a Laser Radial. The event combines skill and strategy, and the 26-year-old sailor needed both to fight her way back from a false start that put her far behind in the last race.

Tunnicliffe finished second in the final race, losing to Gintare Volungeviciute of Lithuania, but won the gold based on her overall points in 10 races.

U.S. Teams Also Advance

American teams advanced in several events. The U.S. women's water polo team beat Australia 9-8 in the semifinal. Guaranteed at least a silver medal, they'll face the winner of a match between Hungary and the Netherlands on Thursday.

The American beach volleyball team of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh moved on to the finals by trouncing a team from Brazil.

The U.S. now leads in overall medals at these games with 79 to China's 76. The next closest contender for overall medals is Russia, with 42. The distribution of medals has been remarkably even among American athletes, with 26 gold, 26 silver and 27 bronze. By contrast, China is top-heavy, with 43 gold medals, 14 silver and 19 bronze.