It was a tough way for the U.S. women's fencers to again be denied a medal.
The foil team, bidding to become the first U.S. women's squad to win a fencing medal, lost a thrilling bronze medal match, 45-42, to Germany on Saturday. The final point was awarded when Ann Marsh was penalized for covering her target on the last touch by Germany's Rita Koenig.
"That penalty is not what caused us to lose," said Marsh, a medical resident at several Buffalo-area hospitals. "The referees do call the bouts closer in the finals -- everyone knows that. I'm not going to be a bad sport and say that's why we lost."
Italy -- the world champion, which beat the United States, 45-38, in the semifinals -- knocked off Poland, 45-36, to win the gold.
Sisters Iris and Felicia Zimmerman, along with Marsh, upset Hungary in the quarterfinals Saturday morning to earn the United States its first medal-round appearance. "I'm upset, and that's a good thing," Felicia Zimmerman said. "United States fencing has come a long way. We need to keep getting better and better."
The fifth-seeded Americans came from 10 touches down to beat Hungary, the fourth seed.
U.S. dances past New Zealand
Another surprise was in store for the U.S. men's basketball team. This one came after their win, not during it.
Players from New Zealand lined up two-deep in a semicircle after the final buzzer and saluted the Americans with the Maori Haka -- a traditional Kiwi dance of challenge usually seen at rugby games.
"We did it in recognition of the team we played," New Zealand forward Phill Jones said after his team was beaten by the Americans, 102-56.
Shrugging off their lackluster performance of two days earlier against Lithuania, the Americans had the kind of dominating game that is expected from them.
Vince Carter scored 18 points, Allan Houston had 17, Antonio McDyess 15 and Kevin Garnett 14. Carter had a massive two-handed dunk just before the final buzzer to claim team scoring honors, and then a strange thing happened as the Americans started to leave the court.
The New Zealand team motioned for them to wait a minute and began doing the Haka -- chanting, stomping one foot at a time, waving their arms and slapping their legs and knees in unison.
"Never seen anything like that before in my life," Tim Hardaway said.
U.S. rowers fizzle in finals
A thick morning fog that hung over the Sydney International Regatta Center finally cleared for the medal races. Yet U.S. boats never seemed to shake the haze.
A disappointing bronze medal in the lightweight women's double sculls wound up the lone bright spot for the Americans, who turned in two fifth-place finishes and two sixths. Sarah Garner took the bronze with Christine Collins, whose four world championships make her the most-decorated U.S. female rower.
The biggest flop was the men's eight, which had won three straight world championships. With only one newcomer, hopes were high for a gold and at least a medal. They wound up fifth, 6.08 seconds behind the champion British.
Instead of leaving Sydney with the most medals since taking eight in Los Angeles, the United States -- the only team to qualify in all 14 events -- won just two bronze and a silver -- the worst finish since 1972.
Seven U.S. boxers in quarterfinals
Ricardo Williams Jr. of Cincinnati became the seventh U.S. boxer to advance to the quarterfinals, stopping Olusegun Ajose of Nigeria on the 15-point rule (21-6) at 139 pounds. Williams will box Alexandre Leonov of Russia on Wednesday afternoon.
Jose Navarro of Los Angeles also advanced, taking a 12-9 decision over Hicham Mesbahi of Morocco at 112 pounds. Navarro will meet Jerome Thomas of France.
Rocky Juarez, the 125-pound world champion from Houston, outpointed Falk Huste of Germany, 17-15, and set up a quarterfinal showdown against Somluck Kamsing of Thailand, the Olympic gold medalist at the 1996 Olympics. Jermain Taylor of Little Rock, Ark., pounded out a 23-9 decision over Scott McIntosh of Canada at 156 pounds to set up a quarterfinal match with Adnan Catic of Germany.
Around the rings
Yugoslavia left the U.S. men's water polo team in hot water after an 8-5 loss -- the American's second straight. The U.S., which lost its opener to Croatia, 10-7, still must deal with gold-medal favorite Hungary and an improved Greek team to advance out of its six-team pool. The top four teams advance.
American Monica Seles advanced to the women's singles semifinals with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Belgium's Dominique Van Roost. Seles, seeded third, was to meet the winner of the quarterfinal between second-seeded American Venus Williams and No. 5 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario of Spain. Earlier, Venus and her sister, Serena, moved into the doubles quarterfinals by beating Elena Likhovtseva and Anastasia Myskina of Russia, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Laura Wilkinson has some catching up to do. The 22-year-old American remained fifth after the semifinals of women's 10-meter platform diving. Teenagers Sang Xue and Li Na gave the powerful Chinese a hold on the top of the standings.
Brazil beat the U.S. women's volleyball team, 25-17, 20-25, 25-15, 25-15, but the Americans still finished second in Group A. The U.S. will enter the quarterfinals with a 4-1 record.
The U.S. men's volleyball team lost its fourth straight match and its long shot hopes of a medal. South Korea eliminated the Americans from contention with a five-set victory, 25-20, 25-27, 26-24, 21-25, 15-13.
In an all-American beach volleyball quarterfinal, ninth-seeded Dain Blanton and Eric Fonoimoana overpowered Rob Heidger and Kevin Wong, the seventh seeds, 15-3, to advance to the semifinals. Both U.S. women's teams, including Jenny Johnson-Jordan and Annett Davis, were eliminated from medal contention.