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Olympic Champions to be Crowned in 17 Events Wednesday

Most of the winners on the fifth full day of competition at the Beijing Olympics will come from sports not widely followed. But as VOA's Jim Stevenson reports from the Chinese capital, their victories will mean as much as the gold medals claimed in more well-known events.

Years of steady aim will culminate in a trip to the top of the medal podium for one athlete in the women's 25-meter pistol final at the Beijing Shooting Complex.

The finalists in men's and women's judo may not be household names, but two will take home a gold medal in the women's 70-kilogram and men's 90-kilogram finals.

American Ronda Rousey will face Nasiba Surkieva of Turkmenistan in an opening preliminary match. Rousey says the competition can be unpredictable.

"It is all about matchups and styles. I beat the current world championship world champion in the semifinals. And fought the girl who lost to that girl in the finals," she said. "But her style was not good for me. And I ended up losing. So a lot of it is by the luck of the draw. A lot of it is how good of a day you have. But most of it is about how you train."

Fencing finals include the men's individual foil and women's individual epee finals.

Olympic prizes await the winners in women's 56-kilogram and men's 77-kilogram weightlifting, also men's Greco-Roman wrestling in both the 66- and 74-kilogram categories, and medals will go to cyclists in the men's and women's individual time trails.

Perhaps more widely watched will be the women's team gymnastics final and the men's synchronized three-meter springboard diving final. China is doing well in both sports, with its divers winning three gold medals in the previous three days.

Ashley Nee takes to the water competing in a kayak.

"I feel pretty good about it," she said. "It is definitely challenging for sure. But it is meant to be that way. I qualified the berth for the Olympics for women in September at the world championships. So that is pretty motivating, realizing I can hold my ground against the top international paddlers."

Baseball begins, and the U.S. men play South Korea in a preliminary game. The sport is being played for the final time at the Olympics. U.S. team general manager Bob Watson says it should be reinstated.

"Baseball is an American sport," he said. "We were very disappointed at the vote last time [to eliminate the sport]. With the vote coming up in 2009, we feel that our performance in the 2008 Olympics will go a long way. Baseball needs to be in the Olympics."

Highlights will undoubtedly again come from the Olympic swimming pool. Women will swim in the 200-individual medley final and 200-meter freestyle final. The men will race in the 200-meter butterfly and 4x200 meter freestyle relay final. American Michael Phelps will be in both races, after winning gold in his first three events.