Let's discuss the day, but first, you've done a remarkable job in finding us, and we've done a remarkable job in providing this column for you to find. How about a hug?

There, that's better.

Let's start with the triathlon. Three 35-year-old American women were running 2-3-4 when we stepped into the shower Wednesday morning, and they had all been passed by an Australian Austrian by the time we were blown dry. But here's a hug for bronze medalist Susan Williams of Springfield. And a hug for the poor Australian Australian who had to settle for silver. We'd hug the winner, but she blew right by us and is still running, all the way back to Austria. Or Australia. Whatever.

Hugging is the Roots beret of the 2004 Olympics. Everyone must have one. Unless you're a gymnast; they must have many. They hug before routines. They hug after routines. They tried hugging during routines for awhile but there were a lot of bloody noses so they stopped.

(We tried to devise a drinking game based on gymnast hugs: a swig for a fakey air kiss, a chug for a vaguely inappropriate old-guy-coach-on-underage-girl squeeze, a shot for the rare but not unprecedented male gymnast hug. But we lost Days 3-5 and decided that our game, like so many of our truly great ideas, was before its time.)

They are hugging at the track, even the athletes who hate each other. Especially the ones who hate each other. The best hug that we've seen was the El Guerrouj group hug Tuesday night. We understand that NBC chose not to show the whole El Guerrouj-fest, so you missed a Moroccan dancing an Irish jig to Greek music. You poor people, you deserve a hug. There. (We saw it on the Magic TV, Channel 18. Let's hug the Magic TV.)


The biggest bunch of huggers we've seen, however, is the U.S. men's volleyball team. They hug after every point (Channel 5 never lies, my friends.) The Americans defeated Greece, 25-20, 22-25, 25-27, 25-23, 17-15, so that's roughly 114 hugs. It's a wonder they're able to lift their arms to spike the ball.

Hugs to boxer Andre Dirrell, doing it for his grandfather. Hugs for sailor Gal Fridman, who won Israel's first gold medal. Hugs for Debbie McDonald and Allen Johnson, who fell just short, and fell, respectively.

In fact, hugs for everyone. Go ahead, hug the guy next to you on the Metro. You know you want to.

In fact, let's make "Hugs!" the new Olympic motto.

Or better still, "Hugs, not drugs!"

Awwww. Give us a hug.

BUST OF THE DAY: The U.S. track cycling team was shut out of the medals for the first time since the 1976 Games in Montreal.

SURPRISE OF THE DAY: The U.S. diving team continued its struggles. Rachelle Kunkel (right) advanced to the semifinals in the springboard, but only in 12th place. Kimiko Soldati was eliminated in the preliminary round. Once the dominant power in the sport, the United States is trying to avoid its first medal shutout since the 1912 Stockholm Games.


"We're like an orchestra and no one has any particular solos. We just make very good music."

-- U.S. basketball star Lisa Leslie, whose team advanced to the semifinals yesterday with a victory over Greece

SIGN OF THE ACROPOLIS: Athens cab driver Ioannis Zavos found a big tip in the back seat of his cab -- the silver medal awarded to Dutch rower Diederik Simon, who rode in Zavos's cab Monday night. Zavos will receive a reward from the Athens Organizing Committee for turning in the trinket, which would have looked great hanging from his rearview mirror. If Alpha and Omega ruled the world -- and in our own way, we do -- Simon would have to drive Zavos's cab around Athens a few days to develop a greater appreciation for earning a piece of silver just for rowing a boat.

-- Tracee Hamilton