EYES ON LONDON: U.S. women gymnastics grab gold, North Korea medals, Djoko, 'Stella!'

By The Associated Press


LONDON — Around the 2012 Olympics and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of the games to you:

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THE GREATEST OLYMPIAN

So, Michael Phelps has become the most successful Olympian of all time. But moments earlier he’d confessed to teammates that he was feeling vulnerable.

Here’s what he said shortly before the relay in which he was to swim the final leg.

“I told those guys I wanted a big lead. I was like, ‘You better give me a big lead going into the last lap,’ and they gave it to me. I just wanted to hold on. I thanked them for being able to allow me to have this moment.”

And what a moment.

Earlier, he’d squandered a certain gold by easing up in the final second of the 200-meter butterfly — and he tossed off his cap in disgust.

But the silver medal — not a color normally associated with Phelps — at least put him level in the all-time list of Olympic medal winners.

The victory in the 4×200 freestyle relay smashed the overall record that had stood for decades, a staggering total of 19 medals. And there are still three more events for him to establish a mark that will be hard for anyone to touch.

— Paul Newberry — Twitter http://twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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AURORA CHEERS

A Colorado town shaken by a mass shooting in a movie theater has something to celebrate — a gold medal won by local swimming star, Missy Franklin.

Franklin, 17, attends Aurora’s Regis Jesuit High School and lives in the nearby Denver suburb of Centennial. Following the July 20 shootings, she dedicated her Olympic races to her home state.

“It’s such a terrible thing, and I’m so shaken by it,” Franklin said last week. “They’re in my thoughts this entire process.”

Franklin won a gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke Monday after having opened her games with a relay bronze.

“For Missy to take time in the midst of her finest moment to think about her hometown and how she can help in its healing is an incredible statement about her character,” Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said Tuesday.

“It certainly means a lot to Aurora to know that Missy cares, and we are proud of her achievements.”

— P. Solomon Banda — Twitter https://twitter.com/psbanda

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VAULTING TO FAME

A gold medal can buy a lot of fame, especially for gymnasts who leap into the public eye during the Olympics.

McKayla Maroney’s jaw-dropping vault on the opening rotation helped catapult the American women to their first team gold medal since 1996, when a group including Kerri Strug, Shannon Miller and Dominique Moceanu stole the show.

Now it could be Maroney’s turn in the spotlight.

“I don’t know, I mean it feels kind of awesome to be able to have accomplished that,” Maroney says. “It’s been a dream of mine forever. If that makes me a little bit more famous, that’s cool.”

—Jon Krawczynski — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/APKrawczynski

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HUNGRY SHARAPOVA

Compared with Wimbledon, Maria Sharapova says she finds the Olympics more tasty.

Sharapova and the rest of the Russian tennis team have been eating dinner together at a house near Wimbledon, the southwest London venue that is hosting the Olympic tournament.

“We have a few cooks that have come from Ukraine, which has been the best part,” Sharapova said. “I’m the first one in line for the food all the time.”

Still hungry for a medal, Sharapova advanced Tuesday into the third round.

— Steven Wine

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FROM OHIO TO TRINIDAD

Although Carlos Suarez lost his only bout in London, the light flyweight from Lima, Ohio, had the Olympic boxing crowd chanting his name.

Fighting for Trinidad and Tobago, his mother’s homeland, Suarez dropped a 16-6 decision to Turkey’s Ferhat Pehlivan in a horrendously sloppy bout. Pehlivan tripped and fell to the canvas easily a dozen times, annoying Suarez tremendously, yet still grinded out enough points to win.

The undersized Suarez shoved, shuffled and even taunted Pehlivan to fight him, but the bout never found a rhythm. The mostly British fans loved his efforts, giving him a huge ovation.

After what’s likely the final bout in 11 years as an amateur boxer, Suarez vented his frustrations with this version of the sport.

“That’s the problem with Olympic boxing,” Suarez said. “It’s not boxing. It’s tag. Those aren’t punches. I didn’t feel none of his shots. I’m fed up, big-time.”

— Greg Beacham — Twitter http://twitter.com/gregbeacham

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IMPRESSIVE STREAK

Overlooked amid the U.S. women’s rout Tuesday night was Romania winning the bronze medal in women’s gymnastics, extending its remarkable streak of finishes. The Romanians now have won a medal at every Olympics dating back to 1976.

“How many gymnasts are there in the USA? China? Russia?” asked coach Octavian Belu. “We have a small group and try our best every day to make good things. We came into the competition with our hearts open.”

Making the streak that much more impressive is the struggles the Romanians have had the last few years.

After winning gold in Sydney and Athens, the Romanians finished fourth at the 2006 world championships, the first time since 1981 they had failed to win a team medal. The Romanians got back on the podium at both the 2007 worlds and Beijing Olympics, but they were a distant third. They tumbled back off the podium in 2010 and 2011, but have made a great recovery this year. In addition to their Olympic bronze, they beat Russia for the European title in May.

— Nancy Armour — Twitter http://twitter.com/nrarmour

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APPRECIATING DENG

This was a moment to appreciate the effort, not assign blame for the failure.

The British men’s basketball team fell just short of an upset over Brazil, losing 67-62. If Luol Deng had played better, the hosts might have pulled it off.

The NBA All-Star shot only 3 of 13 from the field and missed two free throws in the closing minutes.

If he were playing with his Chicago Bulls, Deng would have been ripped apart in print and on radio talk shows.

But fans in Britain are grateful for his commitment. Deng grew up in London after his family fled conflict-torn Sudan and he’s played for the national team since 2007. He helped the British perform well enough in last year’s European championships to convince FIBA that they deserved the traditional automatic Olympic host slot.

So there he was, more than a half hour after the game, still posing for photos with fans.

— Brian Mahoney — Twitter http://twitter.com/briancmahoney

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A BOXING BEEF

Carlos Suarez has a beef about Olympic boxing.

The light flyweight from Lima, Ohio, was fighting for Trinidad and Tobago, his mother’s homeland, as he dropped a 16-6 decision Tuesday to Turkey’s Ferhat Pehlivan.

It was a horrendously sloppy bout. Pehlivan fell to the canvas easily a dozen times, annoying Suarez, yet still grinded out enough points to win.

“That’s the problem with Olympic boxing,” Suarez said. “It’s not boxing. It’s tag. Those aren’t punches. I didn’t feel none of his shots. I’m fed up, big-time.”

— Greg Beacham — Twitter http://twitter.com/gregbeacham

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MEN IN TIGHTS

Someone is walking around with Bradley Wiggins’ body-hugging Lycra.

Foxhills, the country spa hotel hosting the British cycling team, confirmed Tuesday that the Tour de France winner’s training gear was stolen from a locker room while the athletes were having a steamy soak.

“Watch your kit at the Foxhills spa in Surrey, there is a tea leaf about,” Wiggins tweeted. “Tea leaf” is Cockney slang for thief.

Many of the cyclist’s 325,000 followers offered messages of sympathy. “Hope you did not have to sprint back to the room in the buff,” tweeted one.

—Shawn Pogatchnik — Twitter http://twitter.com/ShawnPogatchnik

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TWITTER AND NBC

Here’s the latest on the saga of the journalist whose Twitter account was suspended after he asked followers to email the NBC Olympics president to complain about the network’s coverage of the opening ceremony.

Twitter acknowledged Tuesday in a post on its blog that its team working with NBC for their Olympic partnership “proactively” identified the tweet that it said was in violation of its rules and encouraged the network to report it. The social media website’s general counsel wrote the behavior was “not acceptable and undermines the trust our users have in us.”

NBC Sports says in a statement it wanted to protect its executive, not get the user suspended from Twitter. “We didn’t initially understand the repercussions of our complaint, but now that we do, we have rescinded it,” the statement read.

— Jay Cohen — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

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BEFORE PHELPS

So, Michael Phelps has now won more Olympics medals than any other athlete in history. But do you know who had held the record until Tuesday?

It was Larisa Latynina, a small, white-haired former gymnast who hasn’t been in action for nearly 50 years.

She won nine gold medals as a gymnast for the Soviet Union, and her 18 total medals had stood since 1964.

The 77-year-old Latynina was in the crowd at North Greenwich Arena on Tuesday to watch the women’s gymnastics team final, and she received a warm ovation when her face was shown on the scoreboard late in the competition. She stood up and waved, a big smile on her face as she was introduced by the arena announcer.

Latynina’s Olympic career ended after she took home six medals — two of each — from the 1964 Tokyo games.

—Jon Krawczynski — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/APKrawczynski

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SORRY MATE

Chuang Chih-Yuan of Taiwan is feeling terrible despite reaching the quarterfinals of men’s table tennis. He pulverized Adrian Crisan of Romania 11-3, 11-4, 11-4, 11-5 on Tuesday. Trouble is, Chuang says Crisan is his best friend in the game.

“But this is sport and I was very sorry yesterday when I knew I would have to play against him. It was a very bad feeling. … It was like you have to kill your brother.”

— Stephen Wade — Twitter http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP

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PHELPS RECORD

The Americans have just won the 4×200 freestyle relay — and that’s a 15th gold for Michael Phelps and a new Olympic-record 19th career medal.

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PISTORIUS RELAY

Double-amputee Oscar Pistorius has been cleared to run any part of the Olympic 4×400-meter relay.

Pistorius was the leadoff runner in the semifinals at the world championships in South Korea last year but the IAAF had raised concerns that his carbon-fiber blades would endanger others in the race. South Africa won silver.

IAAF President Lamine Diack said Tuesday that it’s up to the South African federation to decide

“If they want him to run the second leg, he can run the second leg,” said Diack. “It is no problem for us.”

— Raf Casert — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/rcasert

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HEAVY FAVORITES

The U.S. men’s basketball team went into Tuesday night’s game as the enormous favorite over Tunisia, but that wasn’t stopping the gamblers from betting on the Americans.

Kevin Bradley, manager of Bovada Sportsbook, says “65 percent of the money is still coming in on the USA and the pace has been steadily increasing all morning.”

— Jenna Fryer — Twitter http://twitter.com/jennafryer

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GUESS MY WEIGHT

How much do the table tennis tables weigh at the Olympic venue?

A. 200 kilos

B. 50 kilos

C. 20 kilos

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“A” is the correct answer. Heavy duty stuff. Seemed to take a dozen men to move them around at the venue, which has been reduced to using only one table after opening with four for early round play.

—Steve Wade — Twitter http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP

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PHELPS SECOND

Agonizingly close for Michael Phelps. He misses a gold medal by a tiny fraction, slipping out of first place right at the end of the men’s 200 butterfly. South Africa’s Chad le Clos wins. Phelps has tied the record for the most Olympic medals. A small consolation for the American.

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NORTH KOREA MEDALS

There is surely a celebratory air in Pyongyang right now — North Korea is fifth on the Olympic medals table.

They have four medals overall which puts them in joint ninth position in terms of the total number of medals earned. But it’s gold that counts, and Kim Un Guk’s success in the men’s 62-kilogram weightlifting Monday night means they now have three of them.

The only thing that might dampen their excitement: South Korea is currently in fourth position on the medal standings. China is currently top of the table, followed by the U.S. and then France.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter http://twitter.com/fergb

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STELLA!

London is the greatest city in the world — and not just when the Olympics are in town, says Stella McCartney, daughter of Beatles legend Paul McCartney.

The fashion designer who created Great Britain’s team uniforms — which some say have a tad too much Scottish blue and not enough Welsh red — said the U.K.’s vibrant capital has “a bit of all the world” in it.

“I just love London, I think it has the best of every city I’ve ever been to … even with the weather, I still love it,” McCartney said Tuesday at a business summit seeking to win a U.K. trade boost from the Olympics.

— David Stringer

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DON’T SHOOT ME NOW

Novak Djokovic made quick work of Andy Roddick, needing just 54 minutes to wrap up victory.

But Roddick says people shouldn’t draw hasty conclusions.

“I won two out of the last three coming in here, so it’s like night and day,” Roddick said.

“I feel like if I win one, it’s career appreciation day. If I don’t, it’s like ‘Take him out in the field and shoot him in the head.'”

Of the Serbian’s performance, Roddick said: “He was in the zone.”

— Jenna Fryer — Twitter http://twitter.com/jennafryer

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EDITOR’S NOTE — “Eyes on London” shows you the Olympics through the eyes of Associated Press journalists across the 2012 Olympic city and around the world. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.