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Daily briefing, Aug. 21


Usain Bolt is too fast to frighten, and too cool to sweat. So says Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden, who traveled to Kingston this summer to interview the world's fastest man at his training track in Jamaica. Bolt returns to the track on Friday for the finals of the 4x100 men's relay (10:10 a.m. ET). He and his teammates are heavy favorites. (The word "lock" comes to mind.) The women's 4x100 final is scheduled for 9:15 a.m.

"The 4x100-meter relays have long been U.S. property," says Layden. "Americans don't always win. Sometimes they mess up the baton passes, sometimes they just get beat. But U.S. four-by-ones are almost always the favorites. It would have been hard to make a case for the U.S. winning a gold medal in either the men's or women's sprint relay even before they messed up the baton tosses on Thursday. Jamaican women swept the open 100 meters and Jamaican men have Bolt on the anchor. You could have argued that neither race would have been close."

Other highlights:

• The modern pentathlon features five sports in one day: pistol shooting, epee fencing (against every competitor in the field), swimming (200 free), show jumping (on a horse that is randomly selected 20 minutes before competition), and running (a 3-kilometer cross-country run -- pursuit style). American SheilaTaormina, who will be competing in her fourth Olympics in her third different sport (she was a swimming relay gold medalist in 1996 and competed in triathlon in 2000 and '04), is the best hope for the U.S. The competition starts at 8:30 p.m. ET on Thursday.

• BMX will declare its first Olympic champion at 10:30 p.m. and it's a good bet an American will be on the podium. U.S. riders Kyle Bennett, Mike Day and Donny Robinson each advanced to the semifinal round (9:08 p.m.). In the women's BMX competition, Jill Kintner finished seventh on her time-trial run and will compete in the semifinal round (9 p.m.). The women's final race is 10:40.

• The men's gold medal will be handed out in beach volleyball at 11 p.m. Thursday. Brazil's Marcio Araujo and Fábio Luiz are 5-2 against PhilDalhausser and Todd Rogers of the U.S. since '06.

• The men's indoor volleyball semifinals (12:30 a.m.) pits Russia against the U.S., which last won a medal in 1992, taking a bronze in Barcelona. Brazil plays Italy in the other semifinal (8 a.m.).

• The Olympic heavyweight champion often augurs a big professional future: JoeFrazier, George Foreman, Lennox Lewis and Vladimir Klitschko have all tasted gold. U.S. heavyweight Deontay Wilder is the lone remaining American competitor in boxing and the first American heavyweight since NateJones in '96 to medal at the Olympic Games (he is already guaranteed bronze). His semifinal contest is scheduled to begin at 3:45 a.m.

• American David Boudia and Thomas Finchum are the featured homeboys in the men's 10-meter platform diving preliminaries (7 a.m.).

• Brittney Reese of the U.S. should hit the medal stand in the women's long jump final (7:20 a.m.) SI's pick for gold? Maurren Higa Maggi of Brazil.

• Sanya Richards leads the U.S. in the prelims of the women's 4x400 relay (7:40 a.m.). The men's 4x400 squad (LaShawn Merritt and Jeremy Wariner) will run at 8:10 a.m.

• Derek Miles is the lone U.S. man in the men's pole vault finals (7:55 a.m.). Russia's Evgeniy Lukayanenko could join countrywoman Yelena Isinbayeva as a gold medalist in the event.

• Two-time gold medalist Steven Lopez begins action in the men's 80kg taekwondo competition at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday. The event is a single-elimination tournament. The gold-medal match takes place at 10:15 a.m. Friday.

• The U.S. men's baseball team faces Cuba in a semifinal game (6 a.m.). Last Friday, Cuba beat the U.S. 5-4 in 11 innings. Korea and Japan play in the other semifinal (10:30 p.m. Thursday)

• The men's water polo semifinals (7:40 a.m) features Serbia against the U.S. It's the fourth time the teams have met in '08. Serbia is 3-0 in those games.

• A marquee event for the locals: The women's singles gold medal match in table tennis (8:30 a.m.) will be watched by hundreds of millions of Chinese.

• The women's 5,000 final (8:40 a.m.) will feature an American trio: ShalaneFlanagan, Kara Goucher and Jennifer Rhines. Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia, the Olympic record holder at 10,000 meters, is the gold-medal favorite.

• Other finals include the men's 50-kilometer walk (7:30 p.m.) and the men's under 80kg in taekwondo (8:15 a.m.).

•The decathlon's final day concludes with the 1,500 (9:40 a.m.). Bryan Clay is America's best hope and SI's pick for gold. The U.S. has won 11 gold medals in the event since its debut at the 1904 Games.

• Finally, it's going to be a fantastic scene at Wukesong Arena as the U.S. men's basketball team (6-0) plays defending Olympic champion Argentina (5-1) at 10:15 a.m. It's a rematch of the '04 Olympic semifinals when Argentina beat the U.S. 89-81. The winner plays the Lithuania-Spain winner (8 a.m.) on Sunday in the gold-medal game.

"They know they've got to see me in October, so they won't say much."-- U.S. men's basketball player Kobe Bryant, asked if his teammates will make fun of him for turning 30 on Saturday.

"He's a ship and the rest of us are yachts, and you have to find your way around that big old vessel."-- American distance swimmer Mark Warkentin on why 10km marathon gold medalist Maarten van der Weijden is better than the rest of the field.

"My performance had nothing to do with my preparation for the meet, but the way the meet was run. If you watch the event, you will see that they made us wait there for an hour. Why does the competition start at 8:40 p.m. and we are still jumping at midnight?"-- U.S. pole vaulter Brad Walker, on why he didn't qualify for the finals.

1,000The number of gold medals won by the U.S. over Olympic history, after the U.S. women defeated Brazil 1-0 in the soccer final on Wednesday (total doesn't include the 1906 Games, which aren't recognized by the IOC).

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

• "To me, Bolt's celebrations (including his dances) were not out of bounds," writes Dick Friedman. " He just seemed like an athlete reveling in the moment. (Moreover, there was nothing vulgar in his display.)"

1. Those moving medal moments (by Andrew Cawthorne, Reuters): The writer picks the most emotional moments of the Games.

2. Jamaica celebrates Bolt's double (by Nick Davis, BBC News): The party is on in Kingston, mon!

3. Albom and the Great Wall (by Alex Chen, Detroit Free Press): The eight photos you meet on the Free Press Web site.