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RUSSIA SINKS U.S. IN SYNCHRO SWIM

The United States' reign as the world's first synchronized swimming superpower ended Friday as the Americans failed to win a medal for the first time since the sport joined the Olympics in 1984.

Russia won the team competition with a witch-themed routine, adding to the gold medal it picked up in duet three days earlier.

The Russians scored 99.146 out of a possible 100 points. They earned two perfect 10s for technical marks and two 10s for artistic impression, with a variety of pattern changes, lifts and throws.

"We wanted to make it very visual, including the swimsuits and hairstyles," said Maria Kisseleva, who, along with Olga Brusnikina, won the duet gold. "I believe it was a masterpiece."

Japan took silver with 98.860. Canada was third at 97.357.

"The Japanese were breathing down our necks," Kisseleva said. "We were a little uncertain, but it did not affect our performance, and now our emotions are overflowing."

The Americans, who came in as defending champions, finished fifth at 96.104. France was fourth at 96.467.

"I know we did the best job we could," said Kristina Lum of Santa Clara, Calif. "What else can we do?"

Anna Kozlova and Tuesday Middaugh placed fourth in duet Tuesday, ending the United States' incredible run of capturing a medal in every synchronized event since it became an Olympic sport in 1984.

"The U.S. has been on top for so long, I think everyone is very happy to push it down," said Kozlova, a Russian who became a U.S. citizen nearly a year ago.

The eight Americans began the free routine in fifth place after a synchronization blunder marred their train-themed technical routine, which accounts for 35 percent.

Choosing a storm theme for the free routine, the Americans opened with a double tower lift, in which two swimmers -- one on top of the other -- are hoisted out of the water by their underwater teammates.

"Everything looked so together, so strong," said Heather Pease-Olson, who turned 25 on Friday. "I don't think we could have asked for a better-feeling swim."

The judges disagreed, scoring the United States no higher than 9.7 on technique and artistic impression.

"I thought it was almost perfect. It was a great swim," Kozlova said. "I'm not happy with the scores, but we gave it all we could."

The U.S. team was comprised of Carrie Barton, Tammy Cleland-McGregor, Bridget Finn of Buffalo, Kozlova, Lum, Elicia Marshall, Pease-Olson and Kim Wurzel.

Two boxers reach finals

SYDNEY, Australia -- In the most exciting, highest-scoring bout of the competition, Ricardo Williams Jr. beat Cuban Diogenes Luna, 42-41, Friday night and gained the 139-pound final.

In the fight before Williams' stirring victory, Rocky Juarez had a big third round and outpointed Kamil Dzamalutdinov of Russia at 125 pounds and also will be going for gold Sunday afternoon.

The last American semifinalist, Jermain Taylor, couldn't handle the boxing ability and sharp punching of Yermakhan Ibraimov of Kazakstan in a 156-pound semifinal and lost early in the fourth round on the 15-point rule (29-14) early in the fourth round of a 156-pound bout.

American boxers have not won more than one gold medal since the 1988 Olympics, when they won three. Williams' victory was the first for an American in three matches at these games.

Four Cubans will box in finals, including heavyweight Felix Savon, trying for a third Olympic gold.

"I've been waiting for this (gold medal) fight for my whole life," said Williams, a 19-year-old left-hander from Cincinnati.

"It's a dream come true," said Juarez, a 20-year-old world champion from Houston, who has won 68 straight bouts over two years. "This game is for who wants it most. I can't imagine anyone wanting it more than me."

Henson's cup bubbles over

Warm up the bubble bath. Sammie Henson is one victory away from the gold-medal match in freestyle wrestling.

Henson, a former world champion who specializes in come-from-behind wins and then always enjoys a good bubble bath afterward, pulled off another comeback to reach the semifinals at 119 pounds (54 kg).

All four Americans wrestling in today's first session were winners. Brandon Slay, who upset Olympic champion and four-time world champion Bouvaissa Saitiev of Russia on Thursday, reached the semifinals at 167 1/2 pounds (76 kg). Lincoln McIlravy at 152 pounds (69 kg) and heavyweight Kerry McCoy won the first matches in their pools.

Henson fell behind 4-0 -- nothing new there -- then rallied with a succession of speed and strength moves to repeatedly take Oleksandr Zakharuk of Ukraine to the mat for an 8-4 victory.

Around the rings

* Americans David Pichler and Mark Ruiz see little difference between them and the Chinese. The standings say otherwise. China moved closer to winning its record fifth diving gold medal of the Sydney Games as Tian Liang and Hu Jia were seeded first and second after the 10-meter platform semifinals.

Pichler and Ruiz also qualified for the 12-man final Saturday, but lagged well behind.

"If you put their best dive against our best dive, there's no difference," Pichler said. "But they do it more often than we do. We can't miss as much."

Tian, fourth on the platform at Atlanta four years ago, earned the top seed with 704.61 points. Hu, a 17-year-old who was a last-minute replacement for an injured teammate, was seeded second at 692.04.

Defending champion Dmitry Sautin of Russia was the No. 3 seed at 662.19.

Pichler, of Butler, Pa., was the seventh seed at 628.80. Ruiz, of Orlando, Fla., was 10th at 613.35.

* The United States won't get to play in the big pool. A game after its strongest Olympic performance, the American men's water polo team fell to Russia, 11-10, in the quarterfinals.

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