Back to top

Day 14: The worst day ever

Gimme that damn baton, Marion!!"What was easily the worst day of the Athens Games for the United States team also could be considered among the nation's worst at any Olympics." So said the unbylined Associated Press reporter discussing USA's performance in Athens on Friday.

The Dream Team lost its semi-final to Argentina. The womens 4x100 relay team failed to finish their final. There won't be American diver on the medal dais for the first time since 1912. Only one US boxer will win a medal... Oh woe is US!

Colin Powell was so upset, he cancelled a planned visit to Athens at the last minute.

"Of the 20 gold medals available at the Olympics on Friday, only one went to an American," the AP report says. Reality check: the US is still ahead on both the gold medal count and (by a wide margin) the overall medal count, and yes they still won 1 gold on Friday. What of the 147 competing countries who have not won a single gold medal in the entire fortnight.

America's solitary hero for Friday was Timothy Mack, who cleared 5.95m to win the pole vault. Toby Stevenson cleared 5.90m to make it a US quinella. Mack is of the three nominees for the NBC's Kleenex Moment of the Day for Friday. The others? The women's basketball team for winning their semi-final, and Nia Abdallah winning a silver medal in the 57kg women's taekwondo.

The Great Basketball Calamity is one that everyone should have seen a mile off. USA lost to Argentina 89-81. Here is a report in Spanish from Argentina's La Nacion.'s Athens Blog was surprisingly upbeat about the loss, rightfully calling the tournament "arguably the most competitive ever".

A bigger upset was the loss by Lithuania to Italy in the other semi-final, 100-91. The good folk of La Gazzetta dello Sport loved it. Lithuania will be going for a four-peat bronze medal against the US later today. I think they'll get it.

There was sympathy for Spain, whose acrimonious quarter-final loss to the US was their only defeat in the tournament. In comparison, Argentina and Italy go into the final having both lost two games. (Just going back to the US-Spain quarter-final, here is El Mundo's report of the game, and comment by Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post.)

I've only picked up on this today, but's coverage of the Athens basketball tournament is quite outstanding.

Marion Jones... Lauryn Williams... what happened? A botched baton change brought the US's 4x100 relay campaign to a halt on the back straight. (Or, if you were sitting on the non-dignitary side of the stadium, the near straight. Or, if you were in the pleb seats, those tiny dots down there.) reports on the decline of Marion Jones, but I leave the final word on this race to the Jamaica Gleaner, the national newspaper of the gold medallists.

If it was a bad day for the US, China's historic day on the track deserves acknowledgement. Lui Xiang became China's first ever gold medallist on the track, winning the men's 110 hurdles. Later in the evening, Xing Huina won the women's 10,000. Xinhua News Agency gloats.

There's a scary thought here... if China is doing so well in Athens, how many gold will they pick up in Beijing?

More on::