What in the world is wrong with track and field? We have never been so annoyed in our lives, watching a morning and evening of what used to be one of our favorite Olympic events.

Somewhere in the past four years, the athletes have begun beating themselves. They literally pummel themselves with their own fists. They pound their own arms, their legs, their chests. One woman slapped herself in the face. If you need to slap yourself to get your own attention, perhaps you shouldn't be hurling yourself over a thin, precarious bar way up in the air anytime soon.

There used to be only a few camera hogs at the track, and they were all sprinters. Not any more. The Swedish woman who won the heptathlon twittered and posed and preened for the cameras until we wished she'd slapped herself in the face. Of course, she's Swedish, so you folks might not have seen her on NBC. Lucky, lucky folks.

Kissing the camera is also in vogue here. What a fine idea: There is no more flattering look than your face, growing ever more enormous as it moves toward the lens, your lips slowly attaining the size and kissability of two giant security blimps. Very sexy.

Meantime, the sprinters have refined their act. Peacocks and posers and pouters, and that's just the men. One guy felt the need to take off his shirt at the starting line, then put it back on again. We were surprised the other seven didn't whip their shirts off as well. The bodysuits were designed specifically with these guys in mind, to keep them from stripping buck naked and flexing all the way down the track.

Lauryn Williams, we're happy to note, has none of these foibles. She just gets in the blocks, waits for the gun, and goes. She has a silver medal in the 100 meters to show for it, too. And that's a lot better than a slap in the face.

BUST OF THE DAY: Defending gold medalist Stacy Dragila failed to make it out of pole vault qualifying, a shocking performance by the medal favorite and former world record holder. Dragila missed three attempts at 14 feet 51/4 inches, well below her best of 15-10.

SURPRISE OF THE DAY: With Taylor Dent's loss, the United States will come away from the tennis tournament with just one medal: gold or silver, depending on how Mardy Fish does in today's final.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Just a little sun visor on the back of my neck so my engine won't overheat. It's like a supercharger with an inner cooler to keep me running cool. I want to look cool when I'm out there on the track."

-- U.S. sprinter Shawn Crawford, who wore sunglasses and a baseball cap, turned backward, in his first-round heat of the men's 100 meters.

MALTA, MY MALTA: Oh, Darren. Darren, Darren, Darren. You were .01 of a second from quite a victory. A tiny sliver of time, right through our hearts. Make no mistake, Darren Gilford, our 100-meter man, didn't come close to qualifying for the second round, finishing tied for 57th. But .01 of a second faster, and Darren would have beaten a Frenchman and been 57th, all on his own.

Sadly, it was not to be. But Darren did beat sprinters from Micronesia, the Cook Islands, American Samoa and the Maldives. So Darren wins the battle of the islands! Good show, Darren! In 2008 -- the French!

SIGN OF THE ACROPOLIS: Those olive wreaths presented to medal winners are worrying quarantine officials in Australia, who will irradiate and fumigate them upon arrival in Australia. Radiated and fumigated souvenirs -- isn't that the perfect "good on ya" from a grateful nation?

-- Tracee Hamilton

THORPE