A golden first for U.S. women
It took a moment for Helen Maroulis' accomplishment to sink in. The American (right) defeated Japan's Saori Yoshida 4-1 in the 53-kilogram freestyle final Thursday to win the first gold medal for a U.S. female wrestler and derail Yoshida's quest for a fourth straight gold. "At the end of it, I was like, 'Really, I just did this?' " Maroulis said. "Like, oh my gosh!" Yoshida was trying to become the second woman to win four Olympic gold medals in a single event across four Summer Games and the second wrestler to win four Olympic golds. Yoshida's teammate Kaori Icho accomplished the feats Wednesday by winning the 58-kilogram gold. Yoshida is a 16-time world champion who hadn't lost in a major tournament in years, but she had been less dominant in recent tournaments, and Maroulis was on a two-year winning streak of her own. Maroulis said her coach, Valentin Kalika, played a key role in the victory. But even with the game plan in place, she became a bit tense before the start. "I'm like, stepping on the mat, and I'm thinking, 'I don't even know how this is going to get done. I don't know. I'm just going to trust, and I just want to give my all,' " Maroulis said.
U.S. women get rare close win to go for gold
The U.S. women will play for a sixth consecutive gold medal after beating France 86-67, the closest contest of the Games for the Americans. They play Spain, which they beat by 40 in group play, in the final Saturday. Diana Taurasi scored 18 points as the United States won without the services of point guard Sue Bird, who was sidelined with a sprained right knee. The United States turned up its defense to make up for not being as crisp offensively after routing opponents by an average of 41.7 points. The Americans led only 40-36 at halftime but outscored France 25-8 in the decisive third quarter to finally get some separation from the team they beat in the 2012 gold-medal game. Spain defeated Serbia 68-54, and the Spaniards were barely able to contain their excitement as the final minutes ticked off the clock, dancing and hugging before running on the court to celebrate.
U.S. bantamweight Stevenson in final
American Shakur Stevenson reached the bantamweight final after Russian semifinal opponent Vladimir Nikitin was ruled out with an injury. Stevenson, 19, who hasn't lost an international bout in his amateur career, fights in Saturday's final against Cuba's Robeisy Ramirez, the defending gold medalist. "I came up watching Robeisy in the Olympics," Stevenson said. "It's work time, just me and him, mano y mano." Stevenson's gold or silver medal will be the first of either kind for American men since Andre Ward's gold in 2004. Combined with light flyweight Nico Hernandez's bronze medal, the U.S. men will leave the Olympics with two medals for the first time since 2004. Nikitin suffered heavy damage in three consecutive brutal fights, culminating in a pounding Tuesday by Irish world champion Michael Conlan. Nikitin received the decision, prompting an outraged Conlan to denounce the International Boxing Association and Russia as conspirators in corruption.
Record score moves Lewis up board
American Stacy Lewis made 11 birdies to match the low score at Olympic Golf Course with 8-under 63, putting her right in the mix for a gold medal. She had no complaints about her golf or her position at the halfway point of the first Olympic women's competition since 1900. Lewis, at 9-under 133, was one shot behind Inbee Park of South Korea, who birdied her last two holes for another 66 and the 36-hole lead. Marcus Fraser of Australia also shot 63 in the opening round of the men's competition last week on a course set up about 900 yards longer. Lewis' round could have been even more special, but she dropped a shot at No. 7 and made double bogey at the par-three 14th hole before bouncing back with birdies on her final four holes of the day. First-round leader Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand struggled off the tee and with her ball striking, shooting 71 to remain 6 under.
Serbia stuns No. 1 U.S. women in semis
The top-ranked American women fought back to force a fifth set against Serbia before falling short of the gold-medal goal that had driven many of them back to the national team for one more Olympic cycle. Serbia's players cried in triumph after the biggest win in their program's history. They reached the gold-medal match, guaranteeing the country's first women's volleyball medal with a 20-25, 25-17, 25-21, 16-25, 15-13 victory. "Right now this loss is deeply disappointing," U.S. coach Karch Kiraly said. "It cuts deep. It's very painful, and that's okay. We signed up to do difficult things with USA, and we're going to come back harder the next 48 hours to fight for the bronze medal." U.S. star Foluke Akinradewo was sidelined by an apparent left knee injury late in the opening set after beginning the match brilliantly. She was expected to have tests to determine whether she might play Saturday against either China or the Netherlands, which played late Thursday.