Argentina has successfully defended its men's Olympic football (soccer) title with a 1-0 victory over Nigeria. VOA's Jim Stevenson was at the game in China's National Stadium, which was one of several highlights on the second busiest day of the games in Beijing.
Bright sunshine and clear blue skies greeted almost 90,000 spectators inside the Bird's Nest Saturday as the South American team claimed its second consecutive Olympic gold medal. Argentina's coach, Sergio Batista, says through an interpreter that his team had to contain a strong Nigerian offense.
"We knew that upfront, Nigeria from midfield upfront had very good players. So we tried to make sure we did not get uptight. And just play our own game. We wanted to play intelligently, move the ball around. We did not want to run as much. We wanted the ball to do the work," he said.
Two water breaks were allowed for the teams because of very warm temperatures on the field, a move not usually made during international football games.
Later on the track, Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia added the men's 5,000-meter title to his 10,000-meter win earlier in the week. He duplicated the rare achievement in Beijing by countrywoman Tirunesh Dibaba. Bekele, who set an Olympic record time of 12 minutes, 57.82, says he was able to win both events because he is now more mature, physically and mentally.
"Now I am very strong and thinking more about the race. So that is why I achieve tonight," he said.
Kenyan Wilfred Bungei was the men's 800-meter champion and says he was compelled to win.
"Kenyans were saying 'hey, guys it is now your time.' And therefore we were really under a lot of pressure. I would say that. And at the end of the day, we are happy for what we got," he said.
Another Kenyan, Nancy Jebet Langat, emerged as the 1,500-meter champion with a time of four minutes, 0.23. When asked after the race about opportunities for women in Kenya, she said any goal is attainable. "It is not difficult. Because if you train hard, [you will] definitely win easy," she said.
Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway hurled the javelin with a massive toss of 90 meters, 57 centimeters. That distance was an Olympic record and it defended his title from 2004. "I am very happy about this one because [it is an] Olympic record. No one has done better in the Olympics," he said.
The United States found some redemption on the track after both the men's and women's teams had dropped their batons earlier this week and were eliminated from the 4X100 meter finals. On Saturday, both the men's and women's 4X400 meter relay events strode to big wins.
American Jeremy Wariner talks about the men's Olympic record time of two minutes, 55.39.
"We just wanted to go out there and run our races like we know how. And run all out. And when we crossed the finish line and saw the Olympic record, we were ecstatic," he said.
The women finished first in three minutes, 18.54. Alyson Felix says the wins were a great way to end the Olympics on the high note.
"It was great because we had a lot of ups and downs in the meet. And to just come together as a team and end on this note, it was really what we wanted to do. It was not necessarily [that] we were out to get anyone individually. We were out to represent our country as best as we could," she said.
The U.S. women's basketball team claimed its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal with a 92-65 victory over Australia. Both teams went into the final undefeated. The victory extends the U.S. winning streak to 33 in Olympic play, dating back to a loss at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
Brazil topped the U.S. women's volleyball team, 3-1 (25-15, 18-25, 25-13, 25-21), to win gold. In the synchronized swimming team final, Russia topped the podium ahead of Spain and China.
The U.S. men's baseball team closed its Olympic run with a bronze medal victory. The Americans made a dramatic four-run rally in the fifth inning on the way to an 8-4 victory over Japan.
Perhaps the final gold medal in Olympic baseball went to South Korea, a 3-2 winner over Cuba. Baseball and softball will not be included at the 2012 London games.
Heading into the final day of the Olympics, China has the lead in gold medals with 49, while the United States has 34. Russia has moved into third place with 21 gold medals. Overall, U.S. athletes have collected 107 medals, 11 more than the host nation.