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Jamaica Leads a Variety of Olympic Winning Nations in China


Jamaican runners have again claimed a long-standing world record on the track at the Beijing Olympics. VOA's Jim Stevenson reports from the Chinese capital, where several other nations also enjoyed the thrill of winning a gold medal.

Four Jamaican men covered the 400-meter distance Friday faster than any team previously had. Led by 100- and 200-meter world record-holder Usain Bolt, Jamaica's time of 37.10 seconds sliced three-100ths of a second off the 15-year-old U.S. record. Asafa Powell says the team knew it could do it.

"To be honest, with four guys running sub-10 seconds (each), I was very confident of getting the world record. Today was just a great day. When we woke up this morning, we had breakfast together, the four of us. We had lunch together. We were just working as a team. So, we were very confident about the world record."

Michael Frater and Nesta Carter also covered 100-meters each as a part of that winning combination. Mastering 10 events was the winning combination for American Brian Clay, who won the decathlon. The last event was his least favorite, the 15-hundred meter run. And it was little consolation to Clay that he had the win in his sights.

"Just knowing I just had to finish was not any comfort. I still had to put one foot in front of the other for five minutes and six seconds until I crossed the finish line. But it was a great feeling going into (it) knowing that, if you could finish the race, you are going to have the gold medal," he said.

German Lena Schoneborn was the women's modern pentathlon champion.

Although the pace was slow, Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia outlasted the field in the women's 5,000 meter race, adding to her earlier 10,000 meter win. Her time of 15 minutes, 41.40 seconds was more than 90 seconds slower than the world record she set in June. When a journalist asked why Dibaba stayed in the pack, she said through an interpreter that it was her plan. "I come here to the Olympics representing my country. And the major objective is to win. So far, I have not moved ahead and tried to lead a race. Now that you have told me, I will start doing so."

Italian Alex Schwazer was the men's 50-kilometer race walk champion. Striding along special mats laid over the long granite promenade on the Olympic Green, he clocked an Olympic record three hours, 37 minutes, nine seconds.

The longest leap in women's long jump belonged to Maurren Higa Maggi at seven meters, four centimeters. But after the event, the Brazilian champion said through an interpreter that her thoughts were about her daughter, who did not want her mom to leave for Beijing.

"She says 'mommy, you do not need a medal. You have me.' So, I left with my heart in my mouth, to tell you the truth. And, I had to put that out of my mind in a way to be able to compete. I had wished for her to be with me all the time. She is my daughter. She is the reason for my life. And I miss her terribly. I cannot wait to see her and hold her and hug her," she said.

Australian Steve Hooker won the men's pole vault, while the women's four-by-100 meter relay went to Russia. France and Latvia claimed BMX cycling gold. Germany and Belarus each won twice in canoe and kayak events, while Britain and Hungary also scored wins.

The Netherlands beat host China, 2-0, in the women's field hockey final. South Korea and Iran topped the day's Taekwondo competition. Zhang Yining beat compatriot Wang Nan in the all-Chinese final of women's singles table tennis.

One day after Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor won their second straight women's Olympic beach volleyball title, fellow Americans Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser captured the men's gold medal. They defeated Brazilians Fabio Magalhaes and Marcio Araujo, 2-1 (23-21, 17-21, 15-4).

The U.S. men's basketball team scored a 101-81 win over Argentina to move to the finals on Sunday against Spain. The United States beat Russia, 3-2, in men's volleyball to reach the final against Brazil.

The U.S. men's water polo team advanced to the gold medal game for the first time since 1988, with a 10-5 victory over Serbia. Hungary will be the opponent in the gold medal game Sunday.

Meanwhile, uncertainties persist about the ages of some Chinese gymnasts. The International Olympic Committee has directed the International Gymnastics Federation to investigate the allegations that some of the athletes were under the age 16 limit. U.S. Olympic Committee Chief Executive Officer Jim Scherr is hoping a definitive answer will come soon. "We have sent a letter to the IOC and the International (Gymnastics) Federation today, asking them to expeditiously resolve this issue, really in fairness to the athletes and the best interests and integrity of that competition."

China continues to lead the medals standings ranked by gold with 47. The host nation also has 17 silver and 25 bronze for 89 total. The United States has 31 gold medals. Overall, team USA has collected 102 medals to tie its performance four years ago in Athens. Britain is third with 18 gold medals.

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