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First Full Day of Olympic Competition Begins Saturday


Seven medal events open the first full day of competition Saturday at the Beijing Olympics. As VOA's Jim Stevenson reports from the games in China, athletes in weightlifting are among the first to hoist for gold.

The Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics will host the women's 48-kilogram category of weightlifting, the first scheduled final of the Olympics.

The Beijing Shooting Range comes to life with the sound of gunfire as the women look down the sights of their air rifles in the 10-meter finals while the men aim for a title in the 10-meter air pistol.

Gymnastics is getting under way. American Justin Spring says it is time to put pre-Olympic criticisms about the host nation behind and focus on the competition.

"The Olympics is supposed to be about sport," Spring said. "And more countries than the United Nations getting together and competing at the Olympic Games. And it is about the sports and it is about the athletes. It is in our nature to love competitiveness in sport. That is why we love sports. That is why. The Olympics is one of the biggest sporting events in the world."

The men's cycling road race is scheduled to wind through the Urban Cycling Road Course with medals at the end for the fastest riders.

Getting to the point of fencing Olympic gold will be the task in women's individual sabre. The 48-kilogram category of women's judo also takes the medal spotlight as does the men's 60-kilogram event at the University of Science and Technology.

Several tournaments are beginning, including badminton. Because the U.S. women are not expected to do well, team member Eva Lee says the pressure is off.

"We go in as the underdog because most of these other countries are better than us, most of the Asian countries," she said. "So I do not have anything to be afraid of. If anything, they should be afraid of us because we are the underdogs and the pressure is on them. Anything (for us) is a bonus."

American volleyball player Nicole Davis is more optimistic as her tournament kicks off.

"I think it is a very realistic goal for us to medal in Beijing. I think a gold medal is possible. Definitely," she said.

Outside, an American duo is considered the favorite in Beach Volleyball. Teaming with Kerri Walsh, Misty May-Treanor says the sport is fun and can be enjoyed by anyone.

"The great thing about beach volleyball is the longevity you can have," noted Treanor. "But also you do not have to be fast. You do not have to be tall. It is what you have got upstairs (your mind). You can out-think the other opponents. And it is a game that you can play in the park. You can have it at family functions. Anybody can do it. And it is just fun for all ages."

In Hong Kong, the three-day Equestrian competition begins. Phillip Dutton began his Olympic quest in 2000 as an Australian. He is now a U.S. citizen and is seeking gold again.

"Every friend, every family member I ever knew were there in Sydney were crying their eyes out and cheering," Dutton said. "To go back there and to be able win a gold medal there, and added to that I won a gold medal in Atlanta which was sort of my new country. So it has gone farther than I ever dreamed it would."

Other tournaments beginning Saturday include women's basketball, boxing and team handball. Qualifications and heats will take place in rowing, sailing, and swimming.

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