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Daily Briefing, Aug. 19


Usain Bolt makes the impossible seem commonplace. His running has been so spectacular here that he has forced hard-traveled track scribes to consider the question: Can Bolt break Michael Johnson's 12-year-old record in the 200? The time to beat is 19.32.

"The entire track and field world is fascinated to see what this guy can run for 200 meters, considering his unreal 100-meter gold medal run and the fact that he used to be a 200 specialist," says Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden. "Can he break Johnson's record from Atlanta? Personally, I think he wins easily, but comes up a little short. But I gotta say, nothing will surprise me.''

Same here. The 200 final (featuring Americans Shawn Crawford, Walter Dix and Wallace Spearman) is scheduled for 10:20 a.m. ET on Wednesday. Do not miss it -- even on tape delay.

Other highlights:

• Now it gets serious for the U.S. men's basketball team. It plays Australia in quarterfinal action (8 a.m.), an interesting game given that the U.S. had a tricky time with the Aussies in an 87-76 exhibition win in Shanghai two weeks ago. (Bucks forward Andrew Bogut didn't play in the game). Australia has had a terrific tournament, including a 31-point drubbing of Euro power Lithuania. The U.S. is 12-0 lifetime against Australia.

• The games not involving the Redeem Team are even more interesting. Croatia holds a 3-2 record over Spain, including an 85-84 victory in the 2007 European Championships. Pau Gasol is averaging 19.4 points during the Olympics. The tip is scheduled for 2:30 a.m.

• Yao Ming is averaging 19.0 points and 8.4 rebounds, but China is a big underdog against Lithuania in its quarterfinal match (4:45 a.m.) Lithuania has never lost to China in four meetings. Of course, the teams have never faced in China.

• Greece beat Argentina at the '04 Olympics, the last time these two teams played. Argentina's Manu Ginóbili (19.6 points) and Luis Scola (19.2 points) are the No. 1 and No. 3 scorers in the tournament. The game is scheduled to tip at 9:15 a.m.

• The U.S. women's softball team, winners of 23 straight, plays Japan in the semifinals (9:30 p.m. ET Tuesday night). Earlier in the tournament, the U.S. rolled Japan 7-0 in pool play. The U.S. men's volleyball plays Serbia in the quarterfinals (9 a.m.).

The action at the Bird's Nest is terrific in addition to the 200:

• The women's hammer throw final (7:20 a.m.) is the first medal on the program. SI picks Aksana Miankova of Belarus for gold and Cuba's Yipsi Moreno for silver.

• Nick Symmonds, winner of the U.S. Trials in the 800, will run in a heat at 7:24 a.m.

• The men's pole vault qualifying starts at 8:40 a.m. Brad Walker and JeffHartwig are medal hopefuls for the U.S. Russia's Evgeny Lukyanenko is the favorite.

• Bernard Lagat looks to rebound from a disappointing 1,500. He'll run in a 5,000 heat at 8:55 a.m. Kenya's Edwin Soi (SI's pick) goes at 8:35 a.m.

• Allyson Felix and Marshevet Hooker run in the 200 semis (10:04 a.m.).

• The women's 400 hurdles final (10:35 a.m.) is a showdown between MelanieWalker of Jamaica (SI's pick for gold) and U.S. runner Tiffany Ross-Williams. (SI's pick for silver). It's the final race on the track program Wednesday night in Beijing.

• Bicycle motocross, better known as BMX, begins at 9 p.m. The event features a quarter-mile-long obstacle course with a 30-foot high start hill and curves and jumps to help riders hit 40 mph. The competition starts with men's and women's seeding runs. The U.S.' No. 1-ranked BMX rider in the world is Donnie Robinson (SI's pick). Three-time world champion Kyle Bennett and two-time world medalist Mike Day could also hit the medal stand for the U.S. American Jill Kinter gets on the bike at 11 p.m. She'll face stiff competition from Shanaze Reade of Great Britain and Sarah Walker of New Zealand.

"We don't think about numbers. The only numbers we think are about are 21 [points, to win a set], winning in two sets and finishing No. 1."-- American beach volleyball player Misty May-Treanor, who apparently does think about some numbers. May-Treanor and partner Kerri Walsh advanced to the gold-medal game with a win over Brazil's Talita Antunes and RenataRibeiro.

"We get a chance to step up to the plate and take a swipe at big dog -- that's the way I look at it."-- Australia men's basketball coach coach Brian Goorjian, on playing the U.S. men's basketball team in the quarterfinals.

"I do not know what happened. I should not have lost. I beat him before. To lose to a guy like him is terrible."-- Canada's Peter-Paul Pradeeban, after falling to Brazilian Gustavo Tsuboi in the opening round of men's singles table tennis.

10Medals won by the U.S. gymnastics team at the '08 Olympic Games (two gold, six silver, two bronze), the fourth-best total at a single Olympic Games and the highest number at an Olympics outside the U.S. The most gymnastics medals won by a U.S. gymnastics team came at the 1904 St. Louis Games.

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

"When it comes to ridiculously misguided rules and regulations, the IOC can really give the NCAA a run for its money," writes Mark Bechtel. "Brazil is wearing different jerseys than the ones they usually wear. Their football federation badges are missing, because the IOC has a rule against them."

1. Satisfying a bagel craving in Beijing (by Jennifer 8. Lee, The New York Times): The writer searches for the iconic New York treat in the land of Mao.

2. No escape Beijing Olympics 2008 -- the olympification of the streets: A photo essay of how the Games are playing around town.

3. Team USA has earned the world's respect (by Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports): "Most of the world has been rooting for this American renaissance," argues the writer. "They understand it's good for basketball. They've never been afraid of Americans holding a standard for them to chase, and now they'll do it again. They understand that kids everywhere will emulate these players and that the restoration of Team USA trickles down for everyone's benefit."