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VENUS DOUBLES JOY BY WINNING GOLD WITH SERENA

Venus Williams capped a spectacular season by becoming a double Olympic champion, joining sister Serena to produce a record-breaking doubles result and close the Olympic tennis competition.

The Williams sisters cuddled, hugged and beamed pure joy on the winners' podium after crushing the Dutch duo of Kristie Boogert and Miriam Oremans, 6-1, 6-1, in the women's doubles final -- the most one-sided final in Olympic tennis history.

"To have a victory like this with Serena, my sister, a family member, my best friend, doesn't happen often," said Venus Williams, who added the doubles crown to the singles title she won on Wednesday against Russian Elena Dementieva.

"It's very rare," she added, after she and Serena became the first sisters to win an Olympic doubles championship. "Just to be able to stand up together and succeed together on this level has been really, really good.

Venus became the only other woman besides Helen Wills in 1924 to win both the singles and doubles titles at the same Olympiad as the U.S. women's team completed a sweep of singles and doubles gold for the third successive Olympics.

Serena said the most exciting moment of the day for her was when the medal was draped around her neck.

"I've seen it many a time on TV when I was younger and just to be here now and have this opportunity is a great feeling for me," said Serena, who won the French and U.S. Open doubles titles with Venus last year and the Wimbledon doubles crown this summer.

With a marathon performance and a jubilant heave of his racket, Yevgeny Kafelnikov capped a marvelous month for Russian tennis in the men's final.

Kafelnikov outlasted Tommy Haas of Germany, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, for the gold medal in singles, then celebrated by tossing his racket 15 rows into the stands.

"To add a gold medal to my career, it's absolutely fantastic," Kafelnikov said.

Dementieva won the silver in women's singles and less than three weeks ago, countryman Marat Safin beat Pete Sampras to win the U.S. Open.

"My country is taking over in tennis," Kafelnikov said. "It has been a very sensational year."

Kafelnikov won a 3-hour, 34-minute thriller that came down to the only break point of the final set. Haas hit an easy backhand into the net to give Kafelnikov a 5-3 lead, and the Russian served out the match at love.

Four Cubans in finals

Slick bantamweight Guillermo Rigondeaux snapped a five-bout losing streak for Cuban boxers and ended the Olympic gold medal hopes of American Clarence Vinson.

Rigondeaux, who will turn 20 Saturday when he boxes for the gold, used his lanky arms and powerful punches to get an 18-6 victory at 119 pounds today.

His win pulled the Cuban boxers out of a slump and led four of them into the finals.

Among them was Felix Savon, who is trying to become the third boxer to win three Olympic gold medals. The 6-foot-6 Savon beat Sebastian Kober of Germany 14-8 at 201 pounds, scoring half of his points in the second round. Savon got a cut under his left eye that didn't appear to be serious.

The Americans have won four medals, two fewer than in Atlanta four years ago and one more than in Barcelona. They still have a shot at three gold medals in Sydney.

"The team hasn't lived up to my expectations," said Gary Toney, president of USA Boxing.

Vinson, 22, of Washington, D.C., lost his match because he couldn't get inside against the Cuban left-hander. Vinson, who stands 5-foot-2, tried to get to Rigondeaux in the third round and took a left to the head, then was knocked down by a right-left combination.

He took a standing eight-count and never got going.

The only other U.S.-Cuba match pits Ricardo Williams Jr. of Cincinnati against Diogenes Luna in a 139-pound semifinal Friday night.

Russia takes early lead

As expected, world champion Russia led after the technical routine in team synchronized swimming today, while the Americans struggled to a fifth-place showing in defense of their Olympic title.

Russia, unbeaten at the Olympic qualifying tournament and dominant in international meets for several years, picked up one perfect 10 and seven 9.9s from the 10-judge panel for 34.580 points out of a possible 35.

"We are expecting gold because of all the work we've done," Russian team member Yulia Vasilieva said. "We're the best in the world. We always have been."

Japan was a close second at 34.510, receiving a couple of 10s. Following were Canada (33.787), France (33.763) and the United States (33.530).

The Americans' score was hurt by a synchronization blunder just seconds into their train-themed routine at the Sydney International Aquatic Center.

The technical routine accounts for 35 percent of the total score, the rest to be determined in Friday's final.

"We beat the United States," French team member Myriam Lignot said. "It is the first time this has happened and we are very happy."

The U.S. team won in Atlanta four years ago, extending its streak of capturing a medal in every synchronized event since the sport was added to the Olympic program in 1984.

But that came to end Tuesday, when Anna Kozlova and Tuesday Middaugh placed fourth in the duet won by Russians Olga Brusnikina and Maria Kisseleva.

Now, the Americans face an uphill battle to reach the medal podium in the eight-country team competition.

"Russia and Japan should win gold and silver," said Italian Serene Bianchi, whose team was in sixth. "But there are many other teams who could win the bronze medal."

U.S. divers shut out

China's Fu Mingxia dived into Olympic history, winning the 3-meter springboard and joining Americans Greg Louganis and Pat McCormick as the only divers to claim four gold medals.

Fu, 23, also became the first woman to win five medals.

Her first gold came as a 14-year-old competing on springboard at the 1992 Barcelona Games. She swept the springboard and platform events in Atlanta, then won silver in 3-meter synchronized Saturday.

Louganis, Klaus Dibiasi of Italy and Xiong Ni of China are the only men with five medals.

Fu finished first with 609.42 points. Her teammate, Guo Jingjing, earned silver with 597.81.

Doerte Lindner of Germany took bronze with 574.35.

American Jenny Keim wound up eighth, while teammate Michelle Davison was last in the field of 12 finalists.

The crowd-pleasing win completed a golden treble for China on the diving boards after two runaway triumphs for Chinese pairs in synchronized diving events.

Li Na and Sang Xue won the women's synchronized platform and Xiao Hailiang and Xiong Ni the men's synchronized three-meter springboard as Xiong scooped his second gold of the Games and the fifth medal of his long Olympic career.

The Americans were shut out of the diving medals.

Around the rings

Sydney Harbor's winds finally opened up, and so did the haul of U.S. Olympic sailing medals. With a brisk nor'easter raking the harbor, J.J. Isler of San Diego made a dramatic comeback on the final leg to win the women's 470 class silver medal. A little more than an hour later on the same course, Paul Foerster of Rockwall, Texas, took the men's 470 silver by winning the final fleet race.

The Australian crews won both 470 gold medals, their country's first in sailing since 1972. They were saluted with horn blasts from the huge spectator fleet and passing ferries at the finish line, with Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge in the distance.

Steven Lopez came from behind today in the final round to win the United States' first Olympic gold medal in taekwondo, the Olympics' newest sport. Lopez fell behind early in the first round, when Sin scored with a head kick and was unable to score until just one minute was remaining in the third round. The kick connected to tie the bout 1-1 and that was the score when the period ended. Lopez, 21, was declared the winner because Sin had penalties. Hadi Saeibonehkohal of Iran won the bronze.

In the women's taekwondo under 57kg final, Hieu Ngan Tran became the first Vietnamese athlete to win an Olympic medal.

Although she lost to Jae-Eun Jung of South Korea, her silver medal represented a milestone Vietnam's sporting history.

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