Cael Sanderson couldn't have gotten a bigger scare on his first day as an Olympic wrestler. Kerry McCoy couldn't have been more disappointed on his last day.
All was going right for a surprisingly good U.S. freestyle team yesterday, with Sanderson, Jamill Kelly and Stephen Abas all going unbeaten, until McCoy unexpectedly took a tumble that left him without a medal for the second straight Games.
McCoy was tossed by Marid Mutalimov of Kazakhstan 11 seconds into overtime, a three-point move that sent Mutalimov into the medal round at 2641/2 pounds (120kg). McCoy announced his retirement immediately afterward. "I didn't make it happen," said McCoy, a world runner-up last year and two-time NCAA champion at Penn State. "I just know I'm done with wrestling, and I don't have to put up with this any more."
McCoy beat Mutalimov, 5-0, in last year's world championships, but wrestled more tentatively than he did then.
"He was nervous. He was all nerves," said Greg Strobel, McCoy's coach. "The guy kept poking him in the eye and he probably should have been given a couple of penalty points. But McCoy didn't make a mistake [in overtime] -- the other guy just went out first."
And now McCoy is out first, the only American loss in 11 matches yesterday. Abas (3-0) had by far the toughest draw of the four Americans, while Kelly (2-0) had the least amount of international experience, yet both won out.
"I didn't want to be the one that lost," Kelly said.
Sanderson, the most successful college wrestler ever while going 159-0 at Iowa State, won three times at 185 pounds (84kg) and will meet Cuba's Yoel Romero in the semifinals today. Sanderson rallied from two points down in the final minute to beat Iran's Majid Khodaei, 6-5, in overtime in his final match of the day.
Sanderson, often stoic and emotionless on the mat, revealed some of his personality by clapping his hands and looking angry several times -- especially when Khodaei was awarded two points for back exposure on a roll Sanderson initiated.
Unlike McCoy, Sanderson -- also a world silver medalist last year -- didn't appear to have a case of Olympics nerves. Now, to win the gold, he must improve his combined 0-4 against Romero (0-2) and Russian world champion Sazhid Sazhidov, who is in the opposite bracket.
Abas, a former Fresno State wrestler who was fifth in the world last year, beat world No. 2 Ghenadie Tulbea of Moldova, 6-1, and 2002 world champion Rene Montero of Cuba, 4-3, to win his pool. He then beat China's Li Zhengyu, 6-1, in the quarterfinals.
"When you see a guy who got a bad draw like that winning, sure, it gets you going," Sanderson said.
Nia Abdallah's lack of international experience turned out to be her biggest asset.
"I don't think anybody expected me to do anything here," she said.
Abdallah, 20, won a silver medal, advancing to the final before losing, 2-1, to Jang Ji Won of South Korea in the 126-pound (57 kg) class. Iridia Salazar Blanco of Mexico won the bronze.
Later, Hadi Saei Bonehkohal of Iran won the gold medal in the men's 150-pound (68 kg) division, beating Huang Chih-hsiung of Taiwan, 4-3. Song Myeong Seob of South Korea got the bronze.
Abdallah, a little-known competitor from Houston, was the first American woman to win an Olympic match in taekwondo, added as an official sport in Sydney in 2000.
"This is an amazing time in my life," she said. "I got a silver medal. Everyone is asking for my picture and everything."
Men's Field Hockey
Jamie Dwyer scored off a penalty corner in overtime to give Australia a 2-1 victory and its first men's field hockey gold medal, and snap the Netherlands' run of Olympic titles.
Earlier, Bjoern Michel scored 10 minutes into overtime to give the world champion Germans the bronze medal, their first Olympic medal since winning gold in Barcelona in 1992.
Men's Water Polo
Tamas Kasas scored three goals and Hungary moved within one victory of an eighth water polo gold medal with a 7-5 victory over Russia in the semifinals. Serbia and Montenegro, bronze medalist at the 2000 Sydney Games, led all the way against Greece for a 7-3 victory in the other semifinal. Tony Azevedo scored three goals and the United States advanced to a playoff with Italy for seventh place.
Caesar Garcia and Kyle Prandi failed to advance out of the 10-meter platform preliminaries, meaning that American divers will have their first Olympic shutout in 92 years.
Garcia finished 23rd with 388.77 points. Prandi dropped from second place to 21st after the second round and wound up 29th out of 33 divers with 346.53 points. Only the top 18 divers moved on.
Mathew Helm of Australia was the top qualifier with 513.06 points. Alexandre Despatie of Canada, silver medalist in the three-meter springboard, was second with 500.55.
Three-time world champion Zsuzsanna Voros of Hungary won the women's gold medal.
Voros had a 41-second head start on her nearest rival entering the final 3K run and had time at the end to grab a Hungarian flag from the stands and unfurl it while jogging down the home stretch.
Latvia's Jelena Rublevska was able to make up about half the difference, but couldn't catch Voros and ended up with the silver medal. Georgina Harland of Britain won the run, passing 11 women to move up from 14th place to take the bronze medal.
American Mary Beth Iagorashvili was 15th overall. Teammate Anita Allen, a captain in the U.S. Army, was 18th.
Mary Sanders, the only American representative, failed to make it out of qualifying, finishing 15th out of 24. Only the top 10 advanced to tomorrow's all-around final.
Defending world champion Alina Kabaeva of Russia was first with 105.875 points. Fellow Russian Irina Tchachina finished second. Anna Bessonova of Ukraine was third.
Though Sanders was ninth at last year's world championships, she had little chance of making the final after a questionable score on the first day of qualifying in the hoop routine.
The Americans protested, but it was rejected by the International Gymnastics Federation. That left Sanders in 18th place after half of qualifying, too far down to make any kind of meaningful move.
Making more than 60 percent of its three-pointers, Italy beat Lithuania, 100-91, to advance to the gold medal game for just the second time. The only other time Italy played for the gold was in 1980, when it lost to the Soviet Union.
Lithuania (6-1) has won the last three bronzes, and it beat the U.S. team, 94-90, in the preliminary round.