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Daily Briefing, Aug. 14

At 6:30 p.m. in Beijing on Thursday night, following an afternoon that featured about as much rain as Noah experienced, the Olympic medal count between China and the United States was tied at 32. (China now holds a 35-34 lead). Of course, if you're judging by gold medals won, China is pounding the Stars and Stripes 22-10. Good news, America: Michael Phelps is back in the pool on Friday.

The highlights:

• At the Water Cube, Phelps duels with Ryan Lochte in a loaded 200 individual medley final (10:48 p.m. ET Thursday night) "Lochte and Laszlo Cseh of Hungary will be looking to pull an upset against Phelps," says Sports Illustrated's Brian Cazeneuve, "but keep in mind that Lochte will also swim in the finals of the 200-meter backstroke against Aaron Piersol, another world-record holder. I like Phelps but it's going to be close. Cseh is swimming awfully well."

• Fresh off her surprise silver medal in the 100-meter breaststroke, RebeccaSoni of the U.S. will try to chase down Australian favorite Leisel Jones in the 200 breaststroke final (10:12 p.m.). American Natalie Coughlin looks to add the 100 free (11:04 p.m.) to her victory in the 100 back, though China's ZhuYingwen, the Netherlands' Malreen Veldhuis and Australia's Libby Trickett will be tough competition. The 200 backstroke final is a duel between Lochte and Piersol -- arguably the best ever in the discipline (10:48 p.m.).

• Only three U.S. women have medaled in the Olympic all-around in gymnastics -- Mary LouRetton (1984), Shannon Miller (1992) and Carly Patterson (2004) -- but U.S. gymnasts Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin are poised to join the select trio. Both are competing in the women's all-around finals (11:15 p.m.) at the National Indoor Stadium. Johnson and Liukin went 1-2 in the qualification round with scores of 62.725 and 62.375, respectively. China's YangYilin was third with a 62.350. Scores from the qualification round do not carry forward.

• Here's one thing I think I think about Tyson Gay: He's going to advance past his first heat (10:17 p.m.) in the men's 100. Teammate Walter Dix runs in a heat at 10:33 p.m. Jamaicans Usain Bolt (9:45 p.m.) and Asafa Powell (9:53 p.m.) run earlier. My colleague Tim Layden has a track preview here.

• China diver Guo Jingjing, the reigning Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion, begins her run at the 3-meter crown at 1:30 a.m. on Friday morning.

• Oh, Canada I: The U.S.-Canada softball game was halted in the top of the fourth inning on Thursday by weather. Play is scheduled to resume Friday, 30 minutes after completion of the U.S.' game against Japan scheduled at midnight. Canada leads the U.S., 1-0, though U.S. pitchers have yet to allow a hit in this tournament.

• Oh, Canada, II: The U.S. Olympic women's soccer team will face Canada in a quarterfinal match at Shanghai Stadium. The game kicks off at 6 a.m.

Béisbol, the way it oughta be: Cuba meets the U.S. in men's baseball at Wukesong Baseball Field. First pitch is 11:30 p.m.

•The U.S. women's volleyball team (coached by former China national team star Lang Ping, a gold medalist in '84) meets China in what should be a raucous prelim (8 a.m.). Both teams are 2-1. China is 82-29 against the U.S. since '83.

• The U.S. Women's table tennis team is the second seed in bronze medal bracket (play begins at 9 a.m.) at PKU Gymnasium.

• In the evening session in swimming, which begins at 6:30 a.m. ET Friday, Dara Torres, the Queen of the 40-something set, swims in the prelims of the 50 free (6:51 a.m.). Kara Lynn Joyce follows Torres in the next 50 free heat (6:56 a.m.). Australia's Trickett is the current world-record holder in the event and the only woman to swim it in less than 24 seconds. She clocked a 23.97 at the Australian Olympic Swimming Trials in March.

• The U.S. women's basketball team, which dusted Mali by 97-41, won't have it as easy against Spain (8 a.m.).

• The men's shot put is the first final (9 a.m.) of athletics competition. World champion Reese Hoffa, world indoor champion Christian Cantwell, and two-time silver medalist Adam Nelson might go 1-2-3 for the U.S.

Bernard Lagat, who won silver for Kenya in the 1,500 four years ago, makes his U.S. Olympic team debut at 7:19 a.m. in the opening round of the event. Flagbearer Lopez Lomong follows in the next heat at 7:28 a.m.

• The U.S. and Jamaica have run the year's 34 fastest times in the 4x100 relay. The competition begins Friday with the U.S. running its opening heat at 8:32 a.m.

•The women's heptathlon gets underway at 9:32 a.m.. Hyleas Fountain (the current points leader), Jackie Johnson and Diana Picker are the Americans to watch. SI's Cazeneuve picks Russia's Tatyana Chernova for gold and Fountain for silver.

Kerron Clement broke Michael Johnson's world indoor open 400 mark in '05. He begins his first steps toward a gold in the 400 hurdles Friday (10:25 a.m.). Bershawn Jackson (9:55 a.m.) and Angelo Taylor (10:05 a.m.) compete in heats prior to Clement. Cazeneuve picks all three to medal.

• Finally, American record-holder Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher (bronze at the Worlds) face steep odds in the 10,000 final (10:45 a.m.) against the Ethiopian duo of Tirunesha Dibaba (SI's pick for gold) and Mestawet Tufa.

"It was a clash of heads, but it's not important. We are here to overcome all the difficulties. Pain is temporary, glory is eternal."-- Brazil boxing coach Luiz Barreto, after light heavyweight Washington Silva defeated Germany's Bastie Samir 9-7 in the Round of 16.

"If I went any faster, I probably would have to be drug tested."-- Piersol, after winning his 200 backstroke semifinal in 1:55.40.

1-8Career record of James Blake against Roger Federer after Blake's 6-4, 7-6 win over Federer in the quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament.

SI staffers weigh in on the television coverage, hot stories and hot button issues surrounding the Games.

• SI's Dick Friedman says that while beach volleyballers Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor have been getting extensive prime-time coverage on NBC, one of the most overlooked stories is judo's Ronda Rousey, who overcame great personal anguish to become the first U.S. medalist in her sport. On Thursday, Rousey, a 21-year-old from Santa Monica, took a bronze in the women's 70-kilogram class

1. MichaelPhelps.com: Now in English and Chinese, but not with updated stats.

2. African athletes finding medals hard to come by (by Phumza Macanda, Reuters): One by one, African athletes at the Beijing Olympics have fallen by the wayside.

3. Ping pong diplomacy in the parks of Beijing (by Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times): The columnist challenges everyone in Beijing to table tennis. Bet on the home country.

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