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Athletics Finals Highlight 14th Full Day of Competition at Beijing Olympics

Events inside China's National Stadium dominate the medal opportunities Friday at the Beijing Olympics. From the games, VOA's Jim Stevenson has this preview of the highlights from the track and elsewhere.

Seven of the day's 21 medal events will come inside the so-called Birds Nest, Beijing's iconic stadium that also held the colorful Opening Ceremonies, and will be where the games close on Sunday. Before then, medals will be won in the men's pole vault and 4x100 meter relay race.
The men's 50-kilometer walk ends there, as does the men's decathlon. The women will contest in the long jump, 5,000-meter race and 4x100 meter relay final. American Torri Edwards says her team can handle the baton better than the fast Jamaicans.

"As long as we have good handoffs," said Torri Edwards. "They have a lot of speed. But in the relay it is the handoffs. We have smooth handoffs. We can still take it."

However, the handoffs were anything but smooth in the qualifying heats. Both the U.S. men's and women's teams dropped their batons and were eliminated in the first round.

The U.S. men's baseball team is hoping to make the handoff to the gold medal game. Cuba is the semifinal opponent. Baseball is being dropped from the Olympics after this tournament. U.S. team manager Davey Johnson says the Olympics have been great for the sport.

"The Olympics are probably the single most important sporting event in the world,' said Davey Johnson. "I have been fortunate to have played in Europe. I have played in Japan. I have gone a lot of places around this continent [Asia]. The one thing that kind of brings people together is watching the sport, coming to see the guys competing against each other."

Shooting, fencing, swimming, riding and running will all be wrapped together in the women's pentathlon. Taekondo features medal opportunities in the women's under 60 kilogram and men's under 80 kilogram weight categories. The women will hit the ball back and forth until a winner emerges in the singles table tennis final.

Six medals go to the fastest athletes on the water, with the kayak four 500-meter race the only women's final of the day at the Shunyi Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Park. The other championship events are the men's K-1 (one person kayak), K-2 and K-4 races, each over 1,000 meters. At the same distance are the men's C-1 (one person canoe) and C-2 finals.

Two tournaments conclude Friday. The men's bronze and gold medal games in beach volleyball, and the women's bronze and gold medal games in field hockey are on the schedule. The women also peddle their mountain bikes in the cross country women's final.

Meanwhile, the U.S. men's basketball team hopes to take another step to reclaim the Olympic title. Team director Jerry Colangelo says the U.S. goal is clear.

"We not only have a goal to win it," said Jerry Colangelo. "We want to do it in the right way. We want people to respect us. And we want to show respect. It is called mutual respect."

The U.S. men are undefeated after six games in Olympic play and will take on a tough Russian team (5-1) for the chance to play in the gold medal game. And five-time World Cup champion Brazil plays Belgium in the bronze medal match of men's football. The gold medal match between Argentina and Nigeria is on Saturday.