Bill Grant is in Athens for washingtonpost.com.
Paul Hamm hits the edge of the judges' table on his vault but recovers with two spectacular routines to win the men's gymnastics title.

The U.S. 800-meter freestyle relay team -- Natalie Coughlin, Carly Piper, Dana Vollmer and Kaitlin Sandeno wins the gold in world record time.

Tyler Hamilton wins gold in the men's cycling time trial, while U.S. teammate Bobby Julich takes bronze.

"I'm happy right now. Shocked, actually. To be in first place after that kind of mistake, I thought there was no chance to win."
-- Paul Hamm, who hit the edge of the judges' table on his vault but recovered to win.

"It's not easy to win races. You're a loser more than you are a winner. I'm pretty happy with this one."
-- U.S. road cycling time trial silver medalist Dede Barry.

"When you compete at the level that I aspire to compete at, there's nothing but the best you shoot for. The silver medal is a great piece of hardware, but it keeps me around for another four years."
-- American Adam Nelson, who placed second in the shot put largely because of five fouls on his six throws.

Michael Phelps, already with three golds and two bronzes in Athens, tries to make it an even half-dozen medals.

U.S. gymnast Carly Patterson, just 16, goes after the Olympic all-around title. The only American ever to win: Mary Lou Retton in 1984.

Plenty of Horseplay at the Equestrian Events

By Bill Grant
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Web Posted: Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2004; 9:27 p.m. EDT

ATHENS -- Scoring controversies and the Olympics seem to go together like milk and cookies or Bogie and Bacall.

This time, it's equestrian turn to have its prim-and-proper world rocked by a bizarre flurry of judging decisions and reversals, a scene that left AP's writer at the sport's three-day team event invoking images of the Franco-Prussian War of 134 years ago.

Here's the deal. Over the course of a couple of confusing hours Wednesday, Germany had its gold medal in the three-day -- the sport's equivalent of the decathlon -- taken away, then given back.

It all started when France claimed Germany's Bettina Hoy, riding Ringwood Cockatoo, might have crossed the start line twice on the show jumping course, a rules violation. The judges agreed, dropping the Germans to fourth. The Germans quickly filed an appeal. (One wonders if a NFL-style red hankie was involved in any of this.) An appeals committee huddled, then reversed the judges.

Lost in the shuffle was the United States, which for a fleeting moment had the bronze medal when the judges dropped the Germans to fourth.

But it doesn't end there. France, which would get the gold if Germany's penalty is restored, says it will appeal yet again, this time to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Stay tuned.

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Spoils of Victory
The Romanian women's gymnastics team won the gold medal and hit the jackpot all on the same night. From their government, they will each receive two cars, a free college education and rent-free housing along with a $50,000 bonuses. In a country where the average monthly take-home pay is $170, that's far from chump change.

Glued to the Set
Speaking of winners, Terrye Jackson, who lives in Springdale in Prince George's County, has won a trip for two to the 2006 Winter Olympics and a high-definition home theater system. For taking first prize in our caption contest? Hahaha, dream on. No, she set a Guinness World Record for watching television as part of a stunt to promote NBC's round-the-clock Olympic coverage, sitting through an amazing 50 hours and five minutes of Olympic fare. That's a lot of badminton and table tennis. Not to mention Bob Costas.

The E-mail Bag
Among others, Steve Smith of Perrysburg, Ohio, takes us to task for objecting to the wreath ceremony. "Whatever happened to the notion of when in Rome do as the Romans do? Why not enjoy the wreaths as a part of the culture and get past the rather judgmental concern over whether "modern" men and women were meant to wear them? It's a time to celebrate the beauty of sport and enjoy the achievements of those who have worked for this moment. Let's be happy while we can, even if it appears silly. It's the fun that counts."

At least Virginia Beach's Jon Robertson concedes that we have a point on the fashion end of this. "But," he writes, "in the ancient context, it's a great way to honor the athletes."

Okay, okay. We'll reconsider. We're all for lauding athletes; it's a great honor to stand on the medal podium. But precious few of our e-mailers actually argued that the laurel wreaths look good.

Swift Justice
We learn Wednesday that the guy who jumped off the 3-meter springboard at the diving venue Monday night was wearing a blue tutu and white tights with polka dots. That in itself is enough to get him five months in jail, which is what a Greek court gave him. He is appealing the conviction.

Sore Loser
A South Korean judo coach, apparently temporarily blanking on everything the Olympics are supposed to stand for, has been expelled for hitting one of his athletes after she lost a bout. Suh Joung-bok was expelled by the South Korean Federation after a journalist reported seeing him strike Ye Gue-rin after she lost Saturday. He apologized, presumably on his way back to Seoul.

E-mail Us
We'd like to hear what you are thinking about the Olympics, and even publish the few that don't make us blush, gag or speed-dial our lawyers. Keep 'em clean and keep 'em short and remember to put "Olympics" in the subject line.

As always, we want to thank our colleagues at Reuters and the Associated Press for contributing to today's report.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

The French team claimed that Bettina Hoy of Germany, riding Ringwood Cockatoo, had crossed the start line twice. Judges agreed -- at first. (Nigel Marple -- Reuters)

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