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Archive for Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Olympic Roundup: U.S. freestyle wrestler wins gold

August 20, 2008

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— Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin are familiar faces by now, so seeing the gymnasts side-by-side on the medals stand Tuesday was nice, but nothing new.

For that, get to know another American gold-medal winner, freestyle wrestler Henry Cejudo.

The son of illegal immigrants from Mexico, Cejudo was 4 when he last saw his dad. His mom raised six kids and often struggled to make ends meet. The family moved more times than anyone remembers.

He got into wrestling as a youngster because his older brother Angel was good at it, good enough to get invited to live at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Only halfway through high school, Henry went with him.

The kid became a national champ at 17, then defied conventional wisdom by blowing off college to study nothing but wrestling. Yet last year, at the world championship - his first senior-level international event - he didn't win a single match.

Now he's the world's best in the 55-kilogram division, the youngest American ever to win an Olympic wrestling gold medal. That's saying something, because his was the 50th gold won by U.S. wrestlers; swimming and track and field are the only sports to produce more.

His story offers all manner of inspiration. The parts he hopes resonate most: Dream big, work hard and never give up.

"Anybody can do it," he said. "It's just a matter of seeing it, believing it and just working at it, and achieving it. ... The guy who went 0-1 (at the world championship) just won the Olympic title."

Cejudo's gold and Johnson and Liukin finishing 1-2 in the balance beam were among the highlights for the U.S. delegation at the Olympics on Tuesday. Another gold medal came in the 100-meter hurdles, but it wasn't from the expected sprinter, Lolo Jones.

Jones was leading the pack, then hit the second-to-last hurdle and wound up seventh. Gold instead went to Dawn Harper, who grabbed the last spot on the American squad at trials.

Track and field

Sanya Richards was on the medals stand and she wasn't happy about it. She didn't like the color: bronze.

The favorite in the women's 400 meters, Richards led in the stretch but faded at the end, ruining what would've been a great comeback from an illness that cost her most of 2007. Britain's Christine Ohuruogu won, with Jamaica's Shericka Williams taking silver.

Women's basketball

Not that there was much doubt, but the U.S. women are headed back to the Final Four of this tournament.

Sylvia Fowles had 26 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Americans on their latest rout, a 104-60 victory over South Korea.

Baseball

Despite losing its opener, losing one key player to a gruesome injury and seeing another key player get hurt, the U.S. is headed to the medal round.

The Americans advanced with a 4-2 victory over Taiwan, powered by John Gall's go-ahead homer and a solid outing by pitcher Brandon Knight.

Diving

China's He Chong easily won the men's 3-meter springboard, getting 11 perfect marks of 10.0 in the six-round final.

Men's soccer

The final is set: Argentina vs. Nigeria. Argentina is headed back to the Olympic final with the chance to become the first nation in 40 years to defend its title - and to avenge a loss to Nigeria in the 1996 finals.

Women's volleyball

After a slow start, the U.S. took down Italy in five sets to advance to a semifinal matchup with undefeated Cuba.

Women's water polo

The U.S. will be playing for gold, taking on the Netherlands on Thursday, but will do so without center forward Lauren Wenger.

Beach volleyball

Get ready for a rumble.

Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor - the winners of 107 straight matches, including the last Olympic title - are headed to the finals against the Chinese duo of Tian Jia and Wang Jie.

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