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O'TOOLE SPARKS U.S. TO WATER POLO FINAL

Maureen O'Toole has had many highs in 23 years as the best women to ever play water polo. Nothing, though, has felt like this.

"It's the highest we've gotten, the highest we've ever reached. It's huge," said O'Toole.

O'Toole and her teammates will get a chance at gold after the United States took a 6-5 semifinal victory over the Netherlands on Friday night (this morning, EDT).

"It's awesome," said the 39-year-old, chirping excitedly like her much younger teammates.

O'Toole scored America's first two goals, held back her defender long enough for Heather Moody to scoop up a loose ball for the game-winner, and broke up the Netherlands' last scoring chance.

The U.S. will play the Australians, the only team it has lost to, for the gold medal Saturday at the Sydney International Aquatic Center.

The Netherlands will face Russia for the bronze medal.

O'Connor wins gold

SYDNEY, Australia -- David O'Connor won the individual three-day event today, giving the United States its first equestrian gold medal since 1984.

O'Connor, of The Plains, Va., riding Custom Made, had a margin of two jump rails over Andrew Hoy of Australia as he entered as the last rider. He took down only one.

Venus to play Sanchez-Vicario

Venus Williams advanced to the quarterfinals, extending her winning streak to 29 matches, beating Jana Kandarr of Germany, 6-2, 6-2, in the third round.

Next up for the second-seeded Williams will be fifth-seeded Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, the last player to beat her. Sanchez-Vicario, a four-time Olympic medalist from Spain, beat Colombian Fabiola Zuluaga, 6-2, 6-0.

Second-seeded Alex O'Brien and Jared Palmer were upset in their opening doubles match, dropping the United States to 1-4 in men's tennis.

Mariano Zabaleta of Argentina, today eliminated Jeff Tarango, the last American male in the competition, 6-2, 6-3.

U.S. Heavyweight eliminated

Brian Viloria ran into a frenetic Frenchman who matched him blow for blow and then some today, to eliminate the U.S. gold-medal boxing favorite even before the medal rounds begin.

Brahim Asloum of France edged the American, 6-4, finishing strong after the fight was tied 2-2 midway through the fourth round.

"He had a great defense," Viloria said respectfully.

Viloria's upset loss was part of the U.S. boxing team's first bad day at the Olympics. After 11 straight victories, the Americans went one-for three today. One of those losses was David Jackson's disqualification for not making weight for his 132-pound fight.

That left it to 165-pounder Jeff Lacy to salvage the day, which he did by dropping Pawel Kakietek of Poland with a short left in the fourth and final round and winning, 21-7.

Around the rings

Danielle Scott, a bruising 6-foot-2 middle blocker, had 15 kills in the United States' easy 25-11, 25-17, 25-10 women's volleyball victory over Australia today. The victory moved the Americans to 4-0 and set up a battle Sunday with Brazil for the top seed in Group A.

Rob Heidger and Kevin Wong received a forfeit into the beach volleyball quarterfinals when their Mexican opponents dropped out due to injury. That means the seventh-seeded team that advanced on point difference as the "lucky loser," has reached the final eight.

South Korea won the gold medal in men's team archery by defeating Italy, 255-247. The Americans won the bronze medal. They tied, 239-239, with Russia in the third-place match before winning a shootoff, 29-26.

The Americans qualified nine boats for the weekend finals. Lightweight rowers Christine and Sarah Garner won their semifinal heat to advance to the double sculls medal race.

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