U.S. swimmers have enjoyed another big day in the Olympic swimming pool, winning three of the four events on the schedule Friday.  VOA's Jim Stevenson has the day's highlights from Beijing.

American swimmer Rebecca Soni claimed the gold medal in the women's 200-meter breaststroke.  Hers was one of three U.S. victories in the pool Friday - each setting a new world record.  Soni touched the wall in 2:20.22 minutes. 

The winning time for Ryan Lochte was 1:53.94 minutes in the men's 200-meter backstroke final.

"Basically in the two-back [200-meter backstroke], I just wanted to be as comfortable and smooth as possible [in] the first 100 [meters], Lochte said.  "And try not to use my legs as much as possible.  And then it is just basically racing the last 50 [meters]."

Then it was Michael Phelps turn.  He claimed his sixth gold medal to tie his performance four years ago in Athens.  Phelps clocked 1:54.23 minutes in the difficult 200-meter individual medley.  He says great physical conditioning has been a big part of his achievements so far.

"With the program like I have, I have to literally work on everything," Phelps explained.  "I have to work on speed, endurance [and] all four strokes.  You know, I have to have enough speed to take it out.  But I also have to have enough endurance to be able to finish faster than they are.  I think everything we have done has a purpose.  I think it helps me in every single way."

German Britta Steffen emerged the winner of the fast women's 100-meter freestyle, with an Olympic record time of 53.12 seconds.

US women dominate individual gymnastics competition

Americans Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson used nearly flawless floor exercise routines to claim gold and silver, respectively, in the women's individual all-around gymnastics competition.  Yang Yilin of China placed third.

Artur Ayvazian of Ukraine won the men's 50-meter prone rifle competition, in which American Matt Emmons won the silver medal.  Another U.S. shooter, Jason Turner, was awarded a bronze medal in the 10-meter air pistol, after Kim Jong Su from North Korea was disqualified after he failed a drug test.

Viktor Ruban of Ukraine claimed the men's individual archery title.  China won the women's doubles gold medal in badminton.  Slovakia picked up two wins in canoe and kayak.  Men's team sprint finals in track cycling went to Britain.  France regained fencing's team epee title.  Judo golds went to both China and Japan.

Blake eliminated in tennis

On the tennis courts, Chile's Fernando Gonzalez eliminated American James Blake, 4-6, 7-5, 11-9.  Blake still gets to play for a bronze medal.

Track events begin at Bird's Nest stadium

Track and field events got under way in China's National Stadium, known as the Bird's Nest.  Among the athletes running in preliminary heats was opening ceremony American flag bearer Lopez Lomong.  Born in Sudan, the 1500 meter specialist recently became a U.S. citizen.  After his race, he said he was amazed by the magnitude of the Olympics.

"I thought the [U.S.] trials was huge.  But I was lying," he joked.  "This is really huge."

Lopez qualified for the semifinals on Sunday.  Meanwhile on the field, the men's shot put title went to Tomasz Majewski of Poland.  Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba took top honors in the women's 10,000 meter race, while American Shalane Flanagan took bronze.

US Softball team's winning streak continues

The U.S. softball team won twice Friday.  The American women first hit an Olympic record four home runs on the way to a 7-0 victory over Japan in five innings.  The team returned to the field a few hours later to complete a rain-delayed game from Thursday, winning 8-1 over Canada.

The U.S. men's baseball team is not having as good a tournament, losing Friday to Cuba, 5-4, in 11 innings.  With a 1-2 record, the United States next plays Canada.  In women's football, a dramatic extra time goal by substitute Natasha Kai put the United States into the semifinals with a 2-1 victory over Canada.

Host China continues to lead the medals table with 26 gold, nine silver and six bronze.  In the official standings ranked by victories, the United States follows with 14 gold while Germany is third with eight.