Sweep in saber puts U.S. in front

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BEIJING --- With Day 1 of the Beijing Olympics almost done, the U.S. medal count was nonexistent. Cuba, Uzbekistan and 16 other countries all had bragging rights over the Americans. The closest thing to glory was a Colorado resident winning gold for the Czech Republic.

Then came some serious slicing and dicing at the fencing hall.

Thanks to a red, white and blue sweep by saber-swinging women, the U.S. not only landed on the chart, it came out smack dab on top with more medals than anyone else.

Americans were assured of going 1-2 when Mariel Zagunis and Sada Jacobson advanced to the final. Then it was up to 18-year-old Becca Ward to win the bronze. She did, followed by Zagunis taking gold and Jacobson silver.

China finished the day leading 2-1 in the gold race. It might've been 3-1 if not for Katerina Emmons, the Czech shooter who lives with her husband, American shooter Matt Emmons, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Emmons was the somewhat surprising winner of the first medal event of these games, the 10-meter air rifle. Reigning gold medalist Du Li of China was the favorite, but she wound up fifth. If the China-U.S. gold chase winds up close, remember Mrs. Emmons' contribution.

SWIMMING: Larsen Jensen broke his American record in 400 freestyle qualifying. In the 100 breaststroke prelims, Norway's Alexander Dale Oen broke the Olympic record. American world record-holder Brendan Hansen also advanced in 10th.

China got off to a strong start, drawing huge raucous cheers for having the best time in the women's 400 freestyle relay.

Shooting: Emmons was on target from the start, shooting a perfect 400 in qualifying, then finishing with an Olympic record of 503.5.

Lioubov Galkina of Russia won the silver and Snjezana Pejcic of Croatia took the bronze. Jamie Beyerle of Lebanon, Pa., finished fourth.

Pang Wei handled it just fine, easily outlasting a pair of Koreans in the finals of the men's 10-meter air pistol. When it was over, Pang -- the 2006 world champion -- turned around and waved his hat in the air while the home crowd cheered.

Americans Jason Turner and Brian Beaman were fourth and fifth.

Fencing: Zagunis won this event in 2004, making her the first American in a century to win a fencing gold. Now, the U.S. is a force, an obvious favorite to win the team saber event.

Jacobson, who got bronze in Athens, was the top seed but Zagunis had one of her best performances in the final.

"That was probably the hardest bout I've ever fenced in my career," Zagunis said.

Ward, who is part of the same Oregon fencing club as Zagunis, turned an early 6-1 deficit into a 15-14 victory.

WEIGHTLIFTING: Chen Xiexia, last year's world champion, dominated Saturday's competition from start to finish, lifting 210 pounds in the snatch and 258 in the clean and jerk.

By winning the second event of the games, she earned the first medal of any shade for the host country.

Turkey's Sibel Ozkan won the silver medal, while Chen Wei-Ling of Taiwan finished third. The 2004 Olympic champion, Nurcan Taylan of Turkey, was eliminated after three failed attempts in the snatch.

CYCLING: Samuel Sanchez of Spain emerged from a sprint to the finish in the shadow of the Great Wall to win the men's road race, a trek that covered 152 miles in hazy air.

Italy's Davide Rebellin won silver on his 37th birthday, while Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara took the bronze. Levi Leipheimer was the top U.S. finisher, placing 11th.

Sanchez won in 6 hours, 23 minutes, 49 seconds, conquering a route that went past Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and other landmarks in Beijing, then outside the city for seven punishing laps of a hilly loop course between two points on the Great Wall.

EQUESTRIAN: American Phillip Dutton, of Aiken, riding Connaught, was in 14th place after Day 2 of the individual eventing dressage. Rebecca Holder, aboard Courageous Comet, was the top American in fifth place. In first place was Australia's Lucinda Fredericks.

JUDO: Romania's Alina Dumitru won the women's 106-pound gold, throwing Cuba's Yanet Bermoy to the mat for the prize after stunning Japan's seven-time world champion Ryoko Tani in the semifinal.

Argentina's Paula Pareto and Tani, winner of the last two golds, took home the bronze medal.

sailing: American sailor Zach Railey was second in an Olympic Finn race, first in a series of 11 that will determine the medals.

BOXING: American middleweight boxer Shawn Estrada beat Ezequiel Maderna of Argentina.

A Samoan light heavyweight boxer was knocked out, then left the ring in a stretcher and went to a hospital. The ringside doctor expects Farani Tavui to be fine.


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