SI's Daily Olympic Briefing: July 31
LONDON -- The final rival for Michael Phelps is a 77-year-old gymnast whose athletic career ended decades ago. Tonight, Phelps swims for history, and with two medal races (the 200 butterfly and 4x200 freestyle relay) and two strong changes to hit the podium, he should end his evening with a record 19 career Olympic medals. That would put him one medal beyond Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, and firmly atop Mt. Olympics.
The American swimmer is the individual headliner on Tuesday but the team to watch will be the U.S. women's gymnastics squad as the team final competition begins at 11:30 a.m. The U.S. women lead Russia and China after qualifying, and it will be an upset if they do not bring home gold. Medals will also be awarded today in canoe slalom, diving, equestrian, fencing, judo, shooting and weightlifting.
• Phelps won the 200 butterfly in Athens and Beijing and is the favorite for the final, which starts at 2:49 p.m. With any color medal -- Phelps is SI's pick to win gold over Takeshi Matsuda of Japan -- he would tie Latynina for the all-time mark. Though, Phelps had the fourth-fastest run in qualifying, he was quite happy with his swim. Matsuda, South Africa's Chad le Clos and Chen Ye of China are Phelps' strongest competitors.
The women's 200 freestyle (2:41 p.m.) is a stacked race, including Missy Franklin (who won the 100 backstroke final) and Allison Schmitt of the U.S., France's Camille Muffat and Italy's Federica Pellegrini, who won the event in Beijing. Franklin qualified eighth, but will be in the hunt in the final.
Australia's Stephanie Rice was the prerace favorite in the 200 individual medley (3:43 p.m.) but watch out for China's 16-year-old comet Ye Shiwen, who set an Olympic record in the semis, and Australia's Alicia Coutts. Rice finished a surprising sixth in the 400 IM, in a race won handedly by Shiwen.
The last medal event of the night in swimming is the men's 4x200 freestyle relay, in which Phelps (and possibly Ryan Lochte) will compete in an event the U.S. has set 11 world records in since 1920. SI predicts a U.S.-France-Australia finish, and it would be shocking if the U.S. does not medal here.
There will also be preliminary heats (starting at 5 a.m.) and semifinals (starting at 2:30 p.m.) in the men's 100 free (the Australian pair of James Magnussen and James Roberts are the ones to watch); women's 200 butterfly (Japan's Natsumi Hoshi is SI's pick in the final), men's 200 breast stroke (Japan's Kosuke Kitajima gets another shot at gold)
• Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and Jordyn Wieber will compete for the U.S. in the gymnastics team final (11:30 a.m. start), leading the competition heading in with a score of 181.863 followed by Russia (180.429), China (176.637) and Romania close behind at 176.264. Great Britain, Japan, Italy and Canada round out the eight teams who advanced to the final at North Greenwich Arena.
• Wimbledon has plenty of A-listers on center court today, including women's singles action featuring Venus Williams (U.S.) vs. Aleksandra Wozniak (Canada), Jarkko Nieminen (Finland) vs. Andy Murray (Great Britain), Andy Roddick (U.S.) vs. Novak Djokovic (Serbia) and Laura Robson (Great Britain) vs. Maria Sharapova (Russia). The matches start at 7 a.m.
• Archery features men's and women's individual action. Among the American competing today are Jacob Wukie (4:13 a.m.) and Jennifer Nichols (5:44 a.m.).
• Badminton continues with men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles and mixed doubles. Play begins at 3:30 a.m. and runs until the final match (which starts at 3:54 p.m.).
• Look for the U.S. men's basketball team -- who rolled over France by 27 in its opener on Sunday -- to continue the party against Tunisia (5:15 p.m.) Other games of note include Australia-Spain (6:15 a.m.) and France-Argentina (3 p.m.). Spain defeated China by 16 in its opener.
• Jamel Herring of the U. S. faces Daniyar Yeleussinov in a men's light welterweight bout (opening bouts start at 8:30 a.m.; second session starts at 3:30 p.m.). Boxing also has men's light flyweight action.
• France's Tony Estanguet is SI's pick for gold in the canoe single (C1) men's final (10:06 a.m.) at the Lee Valley White Water Centre.
• The U.S. women' soccer team looks to improve to 3-0 in pool play as it faces North Korea (12:15 p.m.) at Old Trafford. Other games of note include Japan-South Africa (9:30 a.m.), Canada-Sweden (9:30 a.m.) and Great Britain-Brazil (2:45 p.m.).
• SI's pick for the women's synchronized 10m platform diving final (10 a.m.) is the Chinese team of Chen Ruolin and Wang Hao. Mexico's Paola Espinosa and Alejandra Orozco are also serious contenders.
• Equestrian medals will be handed out in the eventing team jumping final (5:30 a.m.) and eventing individual jumping final (9:30 a.m.)
• Italy's Andrea Cassara is SI's pick for the men's foil individual finals (2:10 p.m.). The American Race Imboden is also a contender. The prelims begin at 5:30 a.m.
• Argentina is SI's pick in women's field hockey and the U.S. gets its opportunity to upset the favorites today (2 p.m.) at Riverbank Arena. A rising U.S. team defeated Argentina at the '11 Pan-Am Games and lost to Germany 2-1 in its London opener.
• Men's team handball continues with six matches, including Serbia-Croatia (11:15 a.m.) at Copper Box.
• Judo will hand out two medals, including the women's 63kg (11 a.m.) and men's 81kg (11:10 a.m.) Azerbaijan's Elnur Mammadli won the latter event in Beijing and is looking to repeat.
• Norway's Tore Brovold and Valeriy Shomin of Russia are the favorites in the skeet men's final (9 a.m.).
• The men's and women's singles quarterfinals in table tennis will be contested, including an anticipated match between China's Ding Ning and Japan's Ai Fukuhara (7 a.m.). Play commences at 5 a.m.
• There are six men's volleyball matches today, including the U.S. against Germany (11:45 a.m.) and Brazil-Russia (5 p.m.).
• The U.S. men's water polo team plays Romania at 2:40 p.m., one of six matches today in that sport. One to watch is Olympic titleholders Hungary against European championship runners-up Montenegro (3 p.m.).
• Weightlifting will hand out medals today in the women's 63kg and men's 69kg categories.
"You can call me Mr. Balboa if you'd like to." --