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SI's Daily Olympic Briefing: July 29

LONDON -- So powerful is the U.S. women's gymnastics team -- SI's Brian Cazeneuve called it the strongest gymnastics team the United States has ever sent to an Olympic Games -- that U.S. national team coordinator Marta Karolyi called her depth "an embarrassment of riches." The Fab Five (Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and Jordyn Wieber) begin the road to what they hope is Magnificent Seven status as the U.S. team competes in the middle session (starting time: 9:45 a.m.) of the women's team qualification round. (The finals come on Tuesday, beginning at 11:30 a.m.) It's one of the highlights of the second day of competition, which features medals in archery, diving, fencing, judo, road cycling, shooting, swimming, and weightlifting.

• Swimming will hand out four medals tonight, including the women's 100 butterfly (scheduled start: 2:30 p.m.), in which American Dana Vollmer is the favorite for gold over China's Lu Ying, Australia's Alicia Coutts and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden. Vollmer set an American and Olympic record in the prelims with a time of 56.25, breaking Inge de Bruijn's 12-year-old Olympic record of 56.61. Claire Donahue will also swim in the final for the U.S.

The one to beat in the men's 100-meter breaststroke final (3:08 p.m.) is Japan's Kosuke Kitajima, a two-time Olympic champion in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke. He and Michael Phelps are bidding to become the first male swimmer to win the same event at three different Olympics. But Saturday revealed new a major contender: South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh, who swam an Olympic-record 58.83 seconds in the semis. Brendan Hanson is the lone U.S. swimmer in the race.

The women's 400 free final (3:15 p.m.) looks to be a battle between France's Camille Muffat, Italian Frederica Pellegrini and Great Britain's Rebecca Adlington. The latter is defending the first of the two golds she won in Beijing. The opening heats for this event take place at 6:23 a.m.

The last medal at the pool on Sunday comes in the men's 4x100 freestyle relay. The opening heats will commence at 6:56 a.m. The medal will be awarded in the later session at 4 p.m. The U.S. hero in this event from Beijing, Jason Lesak, will swim in the prelims, but SI's pick for gold is Australia.

There will also be qualifying heats (starting at 5 a.m.) and semifinals in the later session (which starts at 2:30 p.m.) in the women's 100 backstroke, women's 100 breaststroke, men's 100 backstroke, and men's 200 free. In the women's 100 breaststroke,Australia's Leisel Jones can become the first individual to win four successive medals in the same Olympic swimming event.

• Medals will also be awarded in shooting, including the women's skeet final (9 a.m.), in which four-time Olympic medalist Kim Rhode looks to become the first American to medal in five straight Olympics in an individual sport. She's SI's pick to win -- and, at 33, Rhode, the 2010 world champion, can very realistically compete (and medal) again four years from now in Rio. Medals in the men's 10-meter air pistol final (6:45 a.m.) will also be awarded; Serbia's Zorana Arunovic is SI's selection for gold.

• France has an interesting roster of NBA players (Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw, Ronny Turiaf, and, of course, Tony Parker), but the U.S. men's basketball team should roll in its opening game of the Olympics (tipoff at 9:30 a.m.) at the Basketball Arena. Writes SI.com's Ian Thomsen, "The Americans may lack traditional size in the pivot -- NBA Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler is the only true center on the 12-man roster, with Kevin Love and No. 1 pick Anthony Davis behind him -- but they are nonetheless likely to control their air space. No other country possesses as many vertically aggressive stars as the U.S." Other men's basketball games today include Brazil-Australia (6:15 a.m.), Spain-China (11:45 a.m.), Russia-Great Britain (3 p.m.) and Argentina-Lithuania (5:15 p.m.).

• Americans Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers, the defending Olympic champs in men's beach volleyball, begin Olympic play at 5 p.m. against Japan's Kentaro Asahi and Katsuhiro Shiratori. Brazil's Alison Cerutti and Emanuel Rego -- gold medal favorites along with the Americans -- meet Clemens Doppler and Alexander Horst of Austria 11 hours earlier, at 6 a.m.

• Defending champion South Korea is the favorite for the women's team gold medal in archery (1:01 p.m.). In the ranking round on Friday, South Korea ranked first, followed by the U.S. Our favorite fact: Four-time U.S. Olympian Khatuna Lorig gave Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence 15 archery lessons last spring.

• Play at Wimbledon starts at 7 a.m., and there will be plenty of stars floating through the grounds, including Serbia's Novak Djokovic, who will play Italy's Fabio Fognini as the first match on Court 1. The matches on Centre Court begin with Poland's Aga Radwanska against Germany's Julia Goerges, followed by Great Britain's Andy Murray versus Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland, Russia's Maria Sharapova against Shahar Peer of Israel and Jo-Wilifred Tsonga of France against Brazil's Thomaz Bellucci. For the U.S., Venus Williams faces Italy's Sara Errani, and Andy Roddick plays Martin Klizan of Slovakia. Venus and Serena Williams also play in women's doubles against Romania's Simona Halep and Sorana Cristea; the Williams sisters' match is scheduled as the fourth match of the day on Court 18.

• The U.S. men's volleyball team, the defending Olympic champions, open play at Earls Court against Serbia (11:45 a.m.), one of six matches today. SI.com's Beverly Oden previewed the competition here.

• Badminton group stage play continues at Wembley Arena, with singles and doubles play beginning at 3:30 a.m.The U.S. doubles team of Howard Bach and Tony Gunawan face Keat Kien Koo and Heong Boo Tan of Malaysia at 9:15 a.m. SI's Luke Winn spent the day with Gunawan on Saturday and wrote a very cool piece on the curious timeline of a badminton Olympian.

• Plenty of boxing today at the ExCel Arena in London, including the men's lightweight and welterweight competitions. The bouts begin at 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. American lightweight Jose Ramirez fights France's Rachid Azzedine in the later session.

• The opening heats in canoe and kayak singles competition begin today (8:30 a.m.) at the Lee Valley White Water Centre.

• Medals will be awarded (7 a.m. start) in the women's road race, and SI tabs Italy's Giorgia Bronzini to win, followed by Marianne Vos of the Netherlands and New Zealand's Linda Villumsen. American Kristin Armstrong (no relation to Lance) is the best bet for the United

States. Amber Neben, Shelly Olds, and Evelyn Stevens will also compete for the U.S. Great Britain's Nicole Cooke, the champ in Beijing, can become the first woman to win the road race twice at the Olympic Games.

• China's He Zi and Wu Minxia are the favorites for gold in the women's 3-meter synchronized springboard diving (10 a.m.) competition, but Kelci Bryant and Abby Johnston of the U.S. have an excellent chance to medal.

• In equestrian, the individual and team dressage competition continues (5 a.m.) at Greenwich Park. U.S. rider Karen O'Connor (who rides Mr. Medicott) is a four-time Olympian who has won a silver (1996) and bronze (2000) in team competition.

• The men's sabre individual final (1:50 p.m.) is likely to come down to world No. 1 Nicolas Limbach of Germany against Russian and second-ranked Alexei Yakimenko. Italian Aldo Montano is the current world champion (and a 2004 gold medalist) but is coming back from a thigh injury he suffered in May. He can become the first Italian man to win multiple gold medals in the event.

• One of the favorites to win gold in men's soccer, Brazil, should have an easy time against Belarus (10 a.m.). Other matches of note include Great Britain-United Arab Emirates (2:45 p.m.) at Wembley Stadium and Spain-Honduras (2:45 p.m.) at St. James Park. Japan stunned medal favorite Spain 1-0 in its opening match.

• Powerful Denmark meets Hungry (4:15 p.m.) in men's team handball at the Copper Box, one of six matches Sunday.

• Field hockey play begins today at Riverbank Arena, featuring the U.S. women against Germany (4:15 p.m.) in the opening round. Germany's Natascha Keller will set a record by becoming the first female field hockey player to feature in five Olympic Games.

• Two judo medals will be awarded, including the women's 52kg final (11 a.m.) and the men's 66kg final (11:10 a.m.)

• Preliminary action in rowing at Eton Dorney includes men's and women's single sculls repechages, lightweight men's and women's double scull heats and women's eight heats. The competition begins at 4:30 a.m. Sailing's opening rounds (starts at 7 a.m.) feature the men's Finn (heavyweight division) and Star (keelboat) and the women's Elliott 6M (fixed keel, match race). Defending Finn class Olympic champion Ben Ainslie, one of the most popular figures in Great Britain sports, aims for his third consecutive gold medal, having won in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.

• The second rounds of men's and women's singles table tennis gets underway (play starts at 4 a.m.).

• There are six men's water polo matches today, including the U.S. men against Montenegro in the last match (2:40 p.m.) of the session.

• Two medals will be awarded in weightlifting: women's 53kg (start time: 10:30 a.m.) and men's 56kg (2 p.m.). SI predicts Zhou Jun of China to win gold in the 53kg and Valentin Hristov of Azerbajian in the men's 56kg.

"This race was sh-- There's no point in having a Porsche if you don't know how to drive it." -- Norway rower Olaf Tufte, unhappy with finishing second in the heats of the single scull

40.7 million Number of viewers (average) who tuned into NBC's broadcast of the Opening Ceremonies. It topped the Atlanta Games in 1996 (39.8 million) as the most-watched opening ceremonies on record.

40: Live sheep that appeared in the Opening Ceremonies.

2: Fencers to qualify for Lebanon -- the brother-and-sister combo of Mona and Zain Shaito,

1. Turkish Woman Is Ready for the Games and Her Next Challenge, by Karen Leigh, The New York Times. Turkey's first Olympic gymnast is a turning point for the sport.

2. Village Life, by the Undercover Olympian. The Telegraph's undercover Olympian reports that security-checkpoint people are ranking athletes based on their attractiveness.

3. London Organisers investigating empty seats, by Paul Casciato and Tim Castle, Reuters. What's up with all the empty seats at the Games?

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