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Olympic Wins and Losses Keep Team USA from Catching Host China

The United States has scored impressive wins at the Beijing Olympics, including the return of the women's football (soccer) team to the pinnacle of international competition. But as VOA's Jim Stevenson reports, Olympic glory was tempered with heartbreaking losses.

Carli Lloyd scored the only goal Thursday to give the United States the gold medal in women's football. Following a scoreless game during regulation time, Lloyd struck in the 96th minute. The U.S. defense then held off the Brazilian attack for the rest of the two mandatory 15-minute overtime periods.

With the win, the U.S. claims its third gold medal in women's football and becomes the first nation to claim consecutive Olympic titles. Also, that gold medal was the 1000th gold medal in United States Olympic history.

Also golden were Americans Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, who defended their women's beach volleyball gold medal by beating a tough Chinese team in the final. Walsh says these wins are huge for women's sport.

"Just to have these opportunities is historic," she said. "There are so many amazing athletes. And for Misty and I to be in that category with these amazing women is huge. We are so grateful for the women who came before us. We are so happy to be carrying the torch right now for the women who come after us. But it is a very special time right now."

The indoor U.S. women's volleyball team beat Cuba, 3-0 (25-20, 25-16, 26-17). The Americans advance to Saturday's final where they will play Brazil.

The U.S. women's softball team had won all three previous Olympic tournaments. But Japan was a 3-1 winner in Beijing to unseat the Americans as all of the players bid farewell to the sport as an Olympic event.

A goal by Danielle de Bruijn with 26 seconds remaining gave the Netherlands a dramatic 9-8 victory over the United States in the gold medal game of women's water polo. Just before the medal ceremony, Dutch team assistant Ilse Sindorf said the win has introduced the sport to many people in her country.

"Most of the people never saw a game before," said Sindorf. "So now it is the first time. And they saw a very good game."

On the track, LaShawn Merritt led an American sweep of the medals in the men's 400-meter dash. Merritt circled the track in a personal best of 43.75.

"We came into these Olympic Games, everybody came into the games planning on winning," he said. "We came here to do big things. But, at the end of the day, I can only control what I do. I had my mind set that I wanted to go out and run a great race. I have been training hard. I wanted to be a gold medalist."

Merritt was nearly one full second ahead of teammate Jeremy Wariner (44.74). David Neville won the bronze medal (44.80). The sweep helped to ease the pain of two baton drops that eliminated both the American men's and women's relay teams in the opening qualifying heats.

But Cuba is celebrating a win in the men's 110-meter hurdles by Dayron Robles, who spoke through an interpreter after the race.

"The 110-meters hurdles is a really competitive event," he said. "You never know if you are going to win. I know from the past of hurdlers who have clipped the last hurdle and they have lost the race. I knew that I was in good shape coming into this. I also knew my opponents were very good in terms of shape. So I could not drop my guard."

Veronica Campbell-Brown continued the strong showing of Jamaican runners. She posted a personal best time of 21.74. But Campbell-Brown says reaching the medal podium has actually been a long and difficult journey since the last summer games.

"Ever since I ran a 22:05 in 2004, I have been struggling to get my 200-meter [time] back to where it was," she said. "And I am just thankful to God that this year, with the help of my coach and my motivation and the people around me, I was able to get back to where I want to be."

Barbara Spotakova of the Czech Republic had the longest toss in women's javelin at 71 meters, 42 centimeters.

"It was my dream of course to win the Olympic games," she said. "My dream was also to throw over 70 meters. I did not expect that I would have to throw over 70.5 meters to win the Olympic Games. Well, it is like a miracle for me."

The U.S. women's basketball team moved to their tournament final with a 67-52 victory over Russia. The gold medal game on Saturday will be a battle of undefeated teams when the Americans play Australia, which beat China, 90-56.

China leads the official medal standings ranked by golds. The host nation has 46, along with 15 silver and 22 bronze for a total of 83. The United States has 95 overall, but only 29 are gold. Britain has 17.