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ON A RAINY BEACH, BLANTON-FONOIMOANA WIN GOLD FOR U.S.

Americans Dain Blanton and Eric Fonoimoana refused to wilt beneath unrelenting Brazilian pressure, defeating favored Ze Marco de Melo and Ricardo Santos, 12-11, 12-9, to win the gold medal in Olympic men's beach volleyball.

The victory in the rain Tuesday brought an explosion of cheers at the sold-out Bondi Beach stadium, with flag-waving fans chanting "U-S-A" as the Americans collapsed in each other's arms.

"The only way we played that well was to play against a team that good," Blanton said to the crowd.

It was a bitter defeat for the Brazilians, who won three medals -- the silver and bronze in women's and the men's silver -- but failed to grab the top prize in a sport they have dominated in recent years.

The Americans came from behind to beat De Melo and Santos in the first set. Then they forged an early 4-1 lead in the second game and never trailed despite desperate comeback efforts by the Brazilians in a match that featured frantic rallies, with bodies diving in the wet sand.

With De Melo waving for the crowd to cheer even louder, he and Santos fought back to 10-9 before Fonoimoana's shot went off Santos for a point, setting up Blanton to serve for the gold.

With the crowd on its feet, he served to De Melo, who passed to Santos and back to De Melo for a spike. Fonoimoana rose to block it back, the Americans had the decisive point.

In the bronze medal game, Germany's Jorg Ahmann and Axel Hager completed an unlikely run to an Olympic medal, defeating Luis Maia and Joao Brenha of Portugal, 12-9, 12-6.

U.S. wrestlers get silver, bronze

SYDNEY, Australia -- Matt Lindland lost -- and this time there was no appeal and no debate.

Lindland, who successfully overturned his loss in the U.S. trials with a lengthy legal fight, lost 3-0 to Mourat Kardanov of Russia for the Olympic gold medal in 167 1/2 pound (76 kg) Greco-Roman wrestling Tuesday.

Lindland wasn't expected to get even a silver -- he didn't place in last year's world championships, and he has had relatively few high world finishes.

Still, he was clearly disappointed with his loss to Kardanov, who, like Lindland, was one of the least-decorated of the Greco-Roman finalists. Kardanov has won only one world-level medal, a bronze in 1993.

"He's a tough competitor, but this is not what I wanted," Lindland said. "If the match had gone nine minutes (into overtime), maybe it might have been different."

Garrett Lowney, a 20-year-old with no prior senior-level international competition, got a surprise bronze medal for the United States, beating Konstantinos Thanos of Greece 3-1 in 6:53 at 213 3/4 pounds (97 kg).

Lowney, unknown to most of the other wrestlers in his weight class, stunned five-time world champion and gold-medal favorite Gogui Koguachvili of Russia 8-3 before losing in the semifinals.

"After the (U.S.) trials, I started believing I could compete here, and it just started to steamroll," said Lowney, a freestyle wrestler at Minnesota. "Once I got here, I knew I had a shot."

Bennett bounced by Savon

Felix Savon's big right hand spoiled Michael Bennett's big Olympic moment. The most anticipated fight of the Olympics turned instead Tuesday into a showcase for Savon, the fearsome Cuban heavyweight who has dominated amateur boxing for the last decade with a right hand that lands with devastating frequency.

Savon landed enough on Bennett's head to keep the American heavyweight from getting inside, finally stopping him on the 15-point mercy rule in the closing seconds of the third round to win the first U.S.-Cuba boxing matchup of the games.

"I'm still happy," Bennett said. "I've been able to live a lot of men's and women's dreams by coming here and competing. I reached for my star and I just fell short. "I can't be anything but pleased with myself."

Clarence Vinson, meanwhile, became the first U.S. boxer to be guaranteed a medal by beating Romanian world champion Olteanu George-Crinu, 26-19, in a 119-pound slugfest later in the day. Vinson moved into the semifinals against Guillermo Rigondeaux of Cuba.

Bennett became the seventh American to be eliminated from medal contention, leaving just five U.S. boxers still fighting. Two bouts before Bennett fought, 165-pound Jeff Lacy was stopped in his quarterfinal fight with Russia's Gaidarbek Gaidarbekov.

The losses mean the U.S. team will not match its medal total in Atlanta, where American boxers won one gold and five bronze medals.

Williams sisters clinch doubles medal

SYDNEY, Australia -- Venus Williams clinched her second Olympic medal Tuesday, teaming with sister Serena for a semifinal victory in doubles.

The Williamses won 11 of the final 13 games to beat Els Callens and Dominique Van Roost of Belgium, 6-4, 6-1.

The sisters' opponents in the final Thursday will be the winners of the semifinal between Kristie Boogert and Miriam Oremans of the Netherlands and Olga Barabanschikova and Natasha Zvereva of Belarus.

Venus will play for the women's singles gold Wednesday against No. 10 Elena Dementieva of Russia. Monica Seles outslugged Australian Jelena Dokic, 6-1, 6-4, to take the bronze.

Tommy Haas of Germany advanced to the final in men's singles by beating Roger Federer of Switzerland, 6-3, 6-2. Haas' opponent Thursday will be the winner of the other semifinal between Arnaud Di Pasquale of France and Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov, at No. 5 the only seeded player remaining.

Ruiz stumbles in springboard diving

There was no comeback for Mark Ruiz in Olympic springboard diving.

The American, who earned 8.0s on just one of his six dives, wound up seventh Tuesday after coming into the 12-man final in fifth place. Troy Dumais of Ventura, Calif., finished sixth.

"I would do one good thing and mess up another thing," Ruiz said. "It's just one of those days where nothing clicked together."

Xiong Ni of China won gold on his final dive with 708.72 points, beating Mexico's Fernando Platas by three-tenths of a point. Platas earned Mexico's first medal on springboard since 1980 with 708.42.

Around the rings

Russia, which hasn't lost a duet since 1997, toe-pointed its way to an Olympic gold medal in synchronized swimming with a near-perfect routine.

The American team, performing in the same waters where the U.S. swimmers captured 33 medals, failed to make the podium. Anna Kozlova and Tuesday Middaugh took fourth.

Team synchronized swimming begins with Thursday's technical routine and ends with Friday's free routine finals. (Buffalo's Bridget Finn is a member of the U.S. team.)

Leontien Zijlaard won her second gold medal of the Games, sprinting out of a soggy pack to win the 75-mile cycling road race in 3 hours, 6 minutes, 31 seconds. Hanka Kupfernagel of Germany won the silver medal. Diana Ziliute of Lithuania took the bronze.

Beset by crashes and mechanical problems, Karen Kurreck of Los Altos Hills, Calif., and Mari Holden of Colorado Springs, Colo., pulled out of the Olympic women's road race midway through the event. The only other American, Nicole Freedman of Stanford, Calif., finished 47th.

The American men's water polo team led Hungary three times in the second half but fell, 10-9, at the Sydney Games.

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