Wednesday August 18th, 2010

The inaugural Youth Olympic Games opened over the weekend in Singapore, where 3,600 athletes from 200 countries were entered in 24 sports.

Japan's Yuka Sato won the first gold medal in the history of the Games, taking first in the women's triathlon on Sunday. Her winning time of 1:00.49 was 14 seconds faster than Australia's Ellie Salthouse. Kelly Whitley of Geneva, Ill. took third. In a Delaware first, Newark, Del. swimmer Kaitlyn Jones became the first U.S. athlete to win gold, taking first in the 200-meter individual medley.

The Games have some adaptations from the established Olympics. Events in Singapore include three-on-three outdoor basketball, a swimming medley with both males and females in the race, a 1,000-meter race, a 2,000 steeplechase and a 5,000 walk. All male cyclists, either from mountain biking, BMX or the time trials, are required to compete in a road race. Fencing competitions will include mixed teams. Riding is not included this year in the modern pentathlon, which might better be named the very modern quadrathlon. Also in Singapore, triathlon events will be comprised of a 750-meter swim, a 20-kilometer ride and a five-kilometer run.

Two more athletes became political victims at the Games when Mohammad Soleimani, an Iranian taekwondo athlete pulled out of his gold-medal bout in the 48-kilogram class against Gili Haimovitz from Israel, claiming a leg injury. Athletes from Iran and some other Muslim countries often withdraw from competitions against Israeli athletes because they do not recognize Israel as a country. Rather than stand on an awards podium a step below Israel during the medal ceremony, Soleimani also claimed he was too sick to attend the ceremony in person. The great irony: The medals were presented by Alex Gilady, an IOC member from Israel who was actually born in Iran.

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As expected Rebecca Bross and Jonathan Horton won the artistic all-around titles over the weekend at the U.S. gymnastics championships in Hartford. Horton defended his title while Bross, the reigning world all-around silver medalist, placed first with 2009 world champion Bridget Sloan limited to one event as she recovers from a shoulder injury. After the competition, the U.S. men's program selected its team for the world championship in Rotterdam in October. The squad included Horton, Danell Leyva, Brandon Wynn and Chris Brooks, the first four finishers at nationals; and Steven Legendre, who placed sixth. The coaches also named Michigan Wolverine Chris Cameron to the squad. Why choose Cameron, the 20th-place finisher, instead of Glen Ishino, who placed fifth? This generation of U.S. men is weaker on pommel horse than on other events, and Cameron is an effective pommel worker. Each nation must use three gymnasts, counting all three scores in each event in the team competition, making it necessary for teams to use specialists for events on which they are weak.

The women may face a similar dilemma, though not as pronounced, on the uneven bars, especially without Nastia Liukin in the picture. Unlike the men, the women will not announce their squad for Rotterdam until after a final national team camp in Texas on Oct. 9. In Hartford, Marta Karolyi, the national program director who will make the call on the final roster, singled out Bross, Mackenzie Caquatto and Cassandra Whitcomb as the gymnasts whose bars routines impressed her most. Caquatto tied for fifth all-around in Hartford and Whitcomb placed 19th.

For the record, three of the team's big stars from 2008; Liukin, the Olympic all-around champ; Shawn Johnson, the Olympic balance beam gold medalist; and Alicia Sacramone, the 2005 world champion on floor; are still pondering another run at an Olympics in London. Of the three, only Sacramone competed in Hartford, winning vault and finishing second on beam. Liukin was working in Hartford as a commentator for Universal Sports.

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Tyson Gay continued his sizzling summer in London on Friday night, winning the 100 meters in 9.78 seconds into a slight headwind. A Week after speeding past Usain Bolt at the Olympic Stadium in Stockholm, Gay outsprinted Bolt's Jamaican countryman Yohan Blake, who placed second in 9.89. Allyson Felix was also in top form over the weekend, taking both the 200 and 400 races in London. Felix beat a 200 field that included Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie of the Bahamas, by half a second. She then held off European champ Tatyana Firova and world indoor champ Debbie Dunn to win the one-lap race in 50.79.

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David Boudia smashed his own U.S. record to win the 10-meter platform event at the National Diving Championships in College Station, Tex. on Saturday. Boudia, 21, totaled 605.40 points, topping his previous mark for the new six-dive format of 551.20, clinching the performance with a superb 4 1/2 somersault tuck that received a whopping 111 points. Harrison Jones finished well behind Boudia with 481.30. Boudia later teamed up with Nick McCrory to win the synchronized platform event.

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