Saturday, August 28, 2004

Q. "Where are you from?" A. "Gold medal" 

Argentina, folks. This country hadn't won a gold medal since the 1952 games in Helsinki. Today, they won the two most prolific team events: soccer and basketball. The soccer victory was of little surprise, as this squad seemed the overwhelming favorite to storm to gold from the start. However, Argentina has carried that mantle before. This time, they were finally able to deliver on the pitch. Kudos to silver medalist Paraguay, by the way, for capturing their nation's first medal... ever. Iraq, incidentally, got 4th place, losing the bronze game to Italy.

Gold in the world's most popular sport earlier in the day, the Argentines would take gold in the world's second most popular sport later in the day, beating a surprise Italian team for the gold. The US men managed to unseat forever bronze medalist, Lithuania, as... well... the bronze medalist. It's only the third time ever in a non-boycotted games that the US hasn't won men's basketball gold. Watching the medal ceremony, you could tell that the US players were well aware of their underachievement -- as they should be. But take no credit away from Argentina who looked very good in capturing the prize. This edition of the basketball tournament was perhaps the most tightly contested ever and an indicator that the world has caught up to not only the US, but other emerging basketball nations. The US lost three games for the first time in any tournament. They had previously only lost a total of two in their Olympic history. European champion, Serbia and Montenegro failed to progress out of the preliminary stages. Neither pool group winner -- Spain and Lithuania, both of whom went unbeaten in pool play -- ended up with a medal. And gold medalist Argentina actually lost two games in group play. Yes, I'd say that Olympic basketball has become far more exciting than just watching the Americans steamroll everyone.

So the big news today is Argentina. I'm sure the party in Buenos Aires is ridiculous right now.

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