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US looks to say goodbye to Beijing with team golds

The Beijing Olympics say "zaijain," or goodbye, Sunday with gold medals awarded in seven sports on the final day of the 17-day games.
Leading the way is the men's marathon, which begins at 7:30 a.m. to help alleviate the expected heat, high humidity and smog in the Chinese capital, although conditions have been surprisingly sunny and clear over the past few days.
In boxing, Chinese fighters feature in three of the six final bouts, including Zhang Zhilei against Roberto Cammarelle of Italy in the over-91 kilogram, or super heavyweight, class. And for those not wanting to watch two boxers pummel each other, they can check out the gentle, soothing flow of hoops and ribbons in the rhythmic gymnastics group all-around final.
The United States has a good chance to add to its gold medal total Sunday _ it has teams in men's finals in volleyball (against Brazil), men's basketball (against Spain) and water polo (against Hungary). The other team sport final is in handball, where France plays Iceland.
All attention will be focussed on the U.S. basketball team, the "please don't call us Dream Team" collection that has overwhelmed its opponents in Beijing.
Now Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will try to beat world champion Spain and complete a return to the top of international basketball.
"We still have one more test to go, but I think our team is extremely confident," point guard Chris Paul said.
It's been eight years since the U.S. men won a gold medal in an international event _ the 2000 Sydney Olympics _ and six years since they lost at the world championships at home in Indianapolis.
Four years ago they lost in the semifinals at the Athens Olympics, and again in the semifinals at the 2006 worlds in Japan. In Athens, a 92-73 blowout loss in pool play to Puerto Rico was their worst defeat ever.
The Americans will take some heart Sunday, for sure, by their 37-point win over Spain in the preliminaries.
"We had a great game against them in pool play, but pool play does not win a gold medal," United States coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "It just gets you into the medal round."
The U.S. men's volleyball team beat Russia in a five-set semifinal, assuring the Americans their first Olympic medal in the sport since 1992. They'll need to beat the defending champion Brazilians to make it gold.
The men won gold in 1984 and 1988 before taking the bronze in Barcelona. The closest they've come since was fourth in Athens in 2004.
"We've got so much motivation, we've got motivation coming out of our ears," said setter Lloy Ball, who is playing in his fourth Olympics.
The biggest American surprise is in water polo, where they're appearing in a gold medal game for the first time since 1988. Hungary is the two-time defending gold medalist.
"You set goals and once you reach that goal, you've got to keep going, right?" U.S. player Jeff Powers said. "The new goal is a gold medal. Let's go get it. Let's change history."
Iceland has a chance to make history as well. Iceland has never won a gold medal across any Olympic sport _ it has just one silver and two bronze.
"We didn't think that far," pivot Robert Gunnarsson said of his team's chance for gold after upsetting Spain 36-30 in the semifinals, when Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson watched from the stands.
"I think that's part of our key to success," Gunnarsson said. "There are so many difficult matches, and we always just thought of the next match. That we are in the final now is just unbelievable."


Updated : 2021-05-09 21:36 GMT+08:00