Phelps Wins Gold, Attack Victim Stable In Beijing The United States racked up Olympic victories Sunday as the volleyball team dealt with a fatal attack on a family member and Michael Phelps cleared a hurdle in his quest for eight gold medals in Beijing.
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Phelps Wins Gold, Attack Victim Stable In Beijing

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Phelps Wins Gold, Attack Victim Stable In Beijing

Phelps Wins Gold, Attack Victim Stable In Beijing

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This morning, Georgian officials told the International Olympic Committee that their athletes will not withdraw from the games despite the continuing conflict with Russia. And now we go to the Olympics in Beijing. The mother-in-law of the coach of the U.S. men's volleyball team is in stable condition today. She was attacked by a Chinese man with a knife at a tourist spot in Beijing on Saturday. Her husband died. Today, the men's volleyball team took on Venezuela. NPR's Frank Langfitt went to the game and spoke with several players afterward. He is with us. Frank, first of all, what more do you know about the attack?

FRANK LANGFITT: Well, Liane, police say it was an act of random violence. Hugh McCutcheon is the coach of the men's volleyball team, and his in-laws, Todd and Barbara Bachman, were here from Lakeville, Minnesota, for the games. They were visiting the Drum Tower, that's an ancient tower just north of The Forbidden City, and then out of the blue, a man named Yang Tongming attacked Todd Bachman. His wife Barbara was injured badly in the attack, as well, along with a Chinese guide. Then Yang threw himself to his death, according to police. They say he's from a city near Shanghai. He's unemployed and divorced, and had just come to Beijing in the beginning of August.

HANSEN: How is the team coping with this?

LANGFITT: Well, obviously it's really hard. The Bachmans also are especially close to American volleyball. Their daughter, Coach Hugh McCutcheon's wife, her name is Elisabeth, and she's a former Olympian on the women's team. After today's game, Loy Ball, he's a veteran player, he talked to reporters. He said yesterday players were really angry and confused about what had happened. And here's how he put it.

Mr. LOY BALL (Setter, U.S. Olympic Men's Volleyball Team): You know, I talked with my wife an hour yesterday, because they had not left the States to come here, about whether or not they should come or not. And, you know, she's a lot stronger than I am. Of course she got on the plane anyway. And I'll be happy to have them here, you know. And, you know, we can't live in fear or anger about what happened. All you can do is, you know, send your prayers and sympathies to the family and try to continue what Hugh would want us to do, and that's try to win a gold medal.

HANSEN: And today, Frank, the game was on. How did the men's volleyball team do?

LANGFITT: Well, the men's team were heavily favored against Venezuela, and they came out really fired up. In the first two sets they won easily. And then they kind of sagged, you know, and they lost the next two sets. And finally, they came back in the fifth game and had some great blocks, and they won 15-10. So they won the whole match.

HANSEN: Americans received the thrill of victory over at the Water Cube, the swimming venue. First, let's hear some of that big announcement.

(Soundbite of crowd ovation)

Unidentified Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Phelps!

LANGFITT: Yeah, that's Michael Phelps getting his first gold medal of the games. He's usually pretty low-key and detached, but as they played the national anthem he was tearing up.

HANSEN: Tell us about the race.

LANGFITT: Well, it was the 400-meter individual medley, and it's one of his tougher events. He ended up breaking his own world record. It was a great start in this bid that he's going for, you know, a record eight gold medals here in Beijing. The first 200 meters were pretty close, and afterwards he said it made him kind of nervous, he didn't like it. But then in the third leg he got into the breaststroke. This is probably his weakest stroke. He pulled ahead. It may have one of the best breaststroke legs he's ever had. And then the final leg, the freestyle, he just blew everybody away. Later, Phelps said he was in pain. This is what he said to reporters after the race.

(Soundbite of press conference)

Mr. MICHAEL PHELPS (Swimmer, U.S. Olympic Team): It hurt a lot more than I thought it would. But I'm happy, you know, standing on the medal podium after the race. It was a pretty emotional race. And I was just excited, you know, to be able to, you know, to drop so much time off my race from last year. I'm almost shocked that I went that fast.

HANSEN: And I understand President Bush was in the audience, giving him an "atta boy."

LANGFITT: He was, and Phelps acknowledged that and said that was really very meaningful for him.

HANSEN: NPR's Frank Langfitt in Beijing. Frank, thanks a lot.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Liane.

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