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Saturday, September 16, 2000
Record day at pool

By LARRY McSHANE -- The Associated Press

 SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- It was a day of triumph in the Olympic pool and tragedy in the official corridors.

 At the Sydney International Aquatic Center, Australia's teen "Thorpedo" launched his Olympic career Saturday with two gold medals and U.S veteran Jenny Thompson earned one in showing that swimming's old guard could keep pace with its new wave.

 Five world records were set in the pool Saturday -- when only four finals were held.

 Hours later came word from Spain that the gravely ill wife of IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch had died, while the 80-year-old Samaranch was still in a plane returning to Barcelona to be at her bedside.

 The state news agency Efe in Madrid reported the death of Maria Teresa Salisachs-Rowe, who was 67. A friend who answered the phone at the family home in Barcelona confirmed the death but did not provide details or identify herself.

 Samaranch left for Barcelona just hours after presiding at the opening of his final Olympics as International Olympic Committee president. IOC first vice president Dick Pound of Canada assumed the role of president in Samaranch's absence.

 Thompson, in her third Olympics, captured her sixth gold medal Saturday -- the most ever by a U.S. woman athlete. Before anchoring the winning 400-meter freestyle relay, she had shared the honor with skater Bonnie Blair.

 Sandwiched around Thompson's record-setting effort were two gold medals for Ian Thorpe, the 17-year-old Australian superswimmer. Thorpe, after breaking his own world record to win the 400-meter freestyle, anchored the Australian 400-meter freestyle relay to victory.

 The U.S. men, who had never lost a 400 free relay in Olympic or world competition, finished second.

 Young or old, there was one constant: All four events ended with world records.

 Besides the records for Thorpe and Thompson, Yana Klochkova of the Ukraine set a new mark in the 400 individual medley and Australia's Michael Klim set one for 100 meters with his leadoff leg of the 400 relay.

 Thorpe arrived at the pool as a combination of Mark Spitz and 'N' Sync, a teen heartthrob with unlimited talent and a shot at four golds. By night's end, he was halfway there after blitzing U.S. anchor Gary Hall in the final lap of the relay.

 "It's pretty amazing to be in front of your home crowd," Thorpe said after medal No. 1. "It's really a dream come true. I'm on such a high."

 The partisan crowd, which included golfer Greg Norman and first daughter Chelsea Clinton, serenaded their hero with chants of "Thorpey, Thorpey!"

 Thompson was part of a veteran squad of Americans who captured the first swimming gold for the Americans. She ripped off her cap and goggles and received pats on the head from teammates Amy Van Dyken, Dara Torres and Courtney Shealy.

 The relay tied Thompson, who has never won an individual gold medal, with Kristin Otto of Germany for most golds by a female swimmer.

 By the end of the first day of Olympic competition, the Americans had captured 4 medals -- 2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze -- to put them even with China (0-1-3) and just behind Australia's 5 (2-2-1).

 -- WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Credit veterans Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie with helping keep the defending gold medalist U.S. women's basketball team from losing its opening. With Swoopes scoring 29 points and Leslie adding 24 and 11 rebounds, the Americans struggled past South Korea, 89-75.

 The women played without sometime starter Chamique Holdsclaw, who was diagnosed with the beginnings of a stress fracture in her right foot. The WNBA All-Star will miss at least five games.

 -- MEN'S SOCCER: For the second time in as many games, the U.S. soccer team was fit to be tied. After a 2-2 deadlock with the Czech Republic in their opener, the men came back Saturday and battled to a 1-1 tie with Cameroon in a game where they had several failed chances at taking the lead.

 The U.S. goal was scored by Pete Vagenas on a second-half penalty kick. The Americans will need a win in their third and final preliminary game to advance into the Olympic second round for the first time.

 -- MEN'S GYMNASTICS: A gutsy effort by veteran John Roethlisberger helped vault the Americans into Monday's finals. The U.S. finished fourth, and the top six teams made the final round. Defending gold medalist Russia finished as the top overall team.

 -- BOXING: 147-pounder Dante Craig pounded Egyptian Fadel Showban Showban, leading 17-2 when the fight was stopped in the fourth round because of the Olympic 15-point rule. The American boxers won their first two bouts.

 -- CYCLING: It was just the wrong season for Chris Witty, who failed in her bid to become the fourth person to win medals at the Summer and Winter Games.

 The American speedskater, who won a pair of medals in 1998 at Nagano, did not fare as well in her cycling bid in Sydney. Despite a personal best time, she finished fifth in the women's 500-meter time trial as world champion Felicia Ballanger of France won the gold medal.

 -- WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: The United States, led by 19-year-old Logan Tom, upset China 3-1 in a first-round women's volleyball match. The Americans recovered from a slow start to win 19-25, 25-21, 25-12 and 26-24.

 -- WATER POLO: At age 39, Maureen O'Toole was the oldest women on the U.S. water polo team. But the veteran was feeling just like a kid after scoring the go-ahead goal in the Americans' 6-4 victory over World Cup champ Netherlands as women's water polo made its Olympic bow.

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