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Day 16 Review: US team 'redeemed' on final day of firsts - |Day 16 Review: US team redeemed on final day of firsts|


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Day 16 Review: US team 'redeemed' on final day of firsts
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Day 16 Review: US team 'redeemed' on final day of firsts

Updated: 2008-08-24 19:33:57

DAY 16 Review: US team 'redeemed' on final day of firsts
The United States team waves to the crowd. (Photo credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

(BEIJING, August 24) -- The Games of the 29th Olympiad are finally over and concluded with 12 finals including a new Olympic record in the Men's Marathon, China and Mongolia collecting their first-ever Olympic Boxing medals and Russia retaining its Rhythmic Gymnastics All Around crown.

But to most observers there was only one question that remained to be answered before the veil came down on Beijing 2008: could Team USA redeem their country's wounded pride at missing the Men's Basketball gold medal in Athens four years ago?

Indeed, even the star-studded NBA players in their ironically monikered "redeem team" joked they'd better not bother going home unless they had nice new gold medals safely tucked inside their suitcases – few major sports, if any, have one nation in the psychological grip that basketball has over the US public.

And the US Women's team, led by Lisa Leslie who scooped her fourth and almost certainly final consecutive gold medal, also retained their Women's Basketball title yesterday. So there was some pressure on the boys.

Redeemers, dreamers, daydream believers, call them what you will, today they were simply winners -- and Beijing 2008, alongside the big name footballers and tennis players who came here, was all the richer for having these major sporting stars in its midst.

They responded magnificently by weighing in with 118 points to Spain's 107. Not that it was ever a walk in the park against a determined Spanish team which, just like China had done in the US team's opening encounter of the Games, led early on.

But after a shaky start, Team USA soon built a seven point advantage by the end of the first quarter, then a half time of lead 69-61.

Inspired by Marc Gasol, Spain chipped away the US lead in the third and fourth quarters, reducing the deficit to just four points at one stage, but the "redeemers" pulled away for an 11 point victory margin that reflected the overall balance of the game.

As you might expect, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade were the top scorers for Team USA, weighing in with 20 and 27 points each.

Afterwards, Lebron James described the joy within the Team USA camp: "It means everything to me. We're the number one team. We've been so blessed with this opportunity. It's so rewarding to see your hard work pay off. This is something I've waited for, for four years."

Earlier, defending Olympic champion Argentina won the bronze medal after a comfortable victory against Lithuania 87-75 with Carlos Delfino top-scoring with 20 points for Argentina.

DAY 16 Review: US team 'redeemed' on final day of firsts
Samuel Kamau Wansiru of Kenya celebrates. (Photo credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

And there was plenty of other action on Day 16.

Samuel Kamau Wansiru set a new Olympic record in the final Athletics event of the Games -- the Men's Marathon -- in which all the medals went to African runners.

Wansiru's victory in two hours and 6.32 minutes was Keyna's first Olympic Men's Marathon win and smashed Carlos Lopes' 24-year-old previous record of two hours and 9:21 minutes, set by the Portuguese runner at the 1984 Olympics.

Jaouad Gharib from Morocco also broke the former record to take silver in two hours and 7.16 minutes, with Ethiopia's Tsegay Kebede crossing the finish line in two hours and 10 minutes to claim the bronze.

DAY 16 Review: US team 'redeemed' on final day of firsts
Zou Shiming celebrates. (Photo credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

China collected its 50th gold medal of the Games and its first-ever Olympic Boxing gold thanks to two-time world Light-flyweight champion Zou Shiming, who defeated Serdamba Purevdorj by catching the Mongolian with a combination of punches in the first round, to earn one point. The bout ended abruptly in the second round with Purevdorj retiring with a shoulder injury.

A second Boxing gold soon came China's way with Zou followed onto the podium by Zhang Xiaoping, who won the Light-heavyweight final by defeating Kenny Egan of Ireland, 11-7.

China was denied a third win though, as Roberto Cammarelle of Italy beat Zhang Zhilei to win the Super-Heavyweight gold.

Mongolia didn't have long to wait to get over the disappointment of Purevdorj's defeat -- Badar-Uugan Enkhbat grabbed its first-ever Boxing gold by out pointing Yankiel Leon Alarcon of Cuba 16-5 to win the Bantamweight gold – and Cuba left the Boxing tournament without a gold medal after Carlos Banteaux Suarez was easily defeated by Kazakhstan's Bakhyt Sarsekbayev 18-9 in the welterweight gold medal final.

Alexey Tishchenko of Russia beat Daouda Sow of France 11-9 to win the Lightweight gold for his second straight Olympic gold medal, having won in the Featherweight class at Athens 2004.

DAY 16 Review: US team 'redeemed' on final day of firsts
The gold medal-winning Russian team pose during the medal ceremony. (Photo credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Elsewhere, as expected, world champions Russia won the Rhythmic Gymnastics All Around gold medal, scoring 35.550 points in the two-routine final. China earned silver with 35.225 points and Belarus took the bronze medal with 34.900 points.

There was further medal success for the United States -- which won its third Olympic Men's Volleyball title by coming from one set down to beat defending champion Brazil, 3-1. Each set was closely contested with Brazil taking the opener 25-20, but the US bounced to take the next two sets 25-22 and 25-21. The fourth set was a thriller which swung one way then the other before the US nailed victory 25-23.

The American team went the entire tournament without defeat and the result was no surprise as they had already beat Brazil 3-0 to win the FIVB World League for the first time this year. Earlier, Russia won its third Men's Volleyball medal in three consecutive Olympic Games, winning a second straight bronze by beating Italy 25-22, 25-19, 25-23.

Not such a good day for the US in Water Polo, though. Hungary reaffirmed its dominance of Men's Water Polo by claiming its third consecutive, and ninth overall, Olympic gold medal after defeating the United States 14-10. Earlier, Serbia beat Montenegro 6-4 to take the bronze medal.

In the Men's Handball final, France took gold 28-23 to deny Iceland what would have been its first ever Olympic gold medal. Iceland's Olafur Stefansson scored a team-high of five goals out of eleven attempts while Nikola Karabatic nailed eight goals for the French team. Spain beat two-time champions Croatia 35-29 to take their third Olympic Men's Handball bronze medal.

And that was just about that. The final medal table had China on top in terms of gold medals with 51, the USA second with 36, Russia third with 21 and surprisingly, Great Britain, fourth, with 19, ahead of fifth-placed Germany's 16. In terms of overall medals, the US collected 110, in comparison to China's 100 and Russia's 72.

So that was Beijing 2008 – a Games dominated, in the opening week, by the record-breaking feats of swimmer Michael Phelps, whose eight gold medals made him the winner of more gold medals in a single Games than anyone else. The second week belonged to the triple world-record breaking exploits of sprinter Usain Bolt.

It was, of course, an amazing Games for host China, which topped the medal table with some incredible performances on home soil – too many to list here but among them, its divers, weightlifters, table tennis and badminton players in particular.

All that is left is the Closing Ceremony to sit back and enjoy. How about doing this again sometime? Let's make a date for London in 2012.

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