Things to watch: Friday, Day 7

Updated: August 20, 2004, 6:54 AM ET news services

Already lost track of how many medals Michael Phelps has won?

Bored by the dominance of the U.S. softball team? Finding it hard to follow the underachieving Dream Team wannabes?

Then Friday at the Olympics is for you!

With few of the usual headliners in action, this is the perfect chance to flip around the dial and watch the highest level of competition in many of the sports Americans enjoy doing but not necessarily following, such as table tennis, weightlifting, badminton, archery and canoeing. Friday is also the first full day on the track.

(Event times below might vary from TV times. Many events will be taped and broadcast later.)

What Why

You didn't really expect to completely ignore Michael Phelps, did you?

Here's the quick scoop: For once, Phelps won't be the United States' favorite in Friday's 100 butterfly. Ian Crocker holds that distinction, and the world record in the event. Crocker has plenty to prove, too. First, he swam a horrible first leg that ultimately cost the U.S. men a gold in the 400 free relay. Then, he failed to qualify for the 100 freestyle.

When/Where: Women's 200 backstroke final, 12:30 p.m. ET; Men's 100 butterfly final, 12:37 p.m. ET; Women's 800 freestyle final, 12:43 p.m.; Men's 50 freestyle final, 1:05 p.m.; Olympic Aquatic Centre. Swim finals scheduled to air during NBC's prime time programming, 8 p.m. through midnight ET.

Track and field
On a busy first full day of track, Gail Devers, the 37-year-old grande dame of the U.S. track team, pursues the third gold medal of her career, starting with a 100-meter first-round heat in the Olympic Stadium.

When Devers debuted 16 years ago in Seoul, Phelps was age 3 and basketball star Carmelo Anthony was 4. And though Devers has twice won the Olympic 100-meter, the five-time Olympian only qualified this year when sprinter Torri Edwards' drug suspension was upheld, creating a spot for her.

There was speculation that Devers would reject the opportunity, focusing instead on the 100-meter hurdles and clearing the way for Marion Jones in the sprint. But Devers opted to run, leaving defending gold medalist Jones -- the track star of the 2000 games -- on the sidelines for this race.

The 10,000 final promises one of the game's emotional highlights, when Olympic veteran Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia runs with his gold medal favorite protege, 22-year-old Kenenisa Bekele.

Last year, Bekele stole the world title away from legendary distance runner Gebrselassie. And three months ago, within just nine days, he smashed his mentor's world records in both the 5,000 and 10,000.

Gebrselassie, 31, is the two-time defending Olympic 10,000 champion, but that could change Friday in a passing of the torch on the Athens track. If he managed to somehow win, Gebrselassie would become the first runner to win three straight golds in an individual track event.

When/Where: Round 1 of 100 scheduled for 3:45 a.m. ET; Round 2 scheduled for 1:05 p.m.; 10,000 final scheduled for 3:35 p.m.

Mia Hamm and the U.S. women play a win-or-go-home game.

Hamm, like Devers, is an Olympic veteran -- and the world's most famous female soccer star has already said she's retiring at the end of the Athens Games. Hamm and her teammates face Japan in the quarterfinals, with the winner moving into the round of four and the loser leaving without a medal.

The game marks Hamm's 264th appearance with the U.S. team as she looks to extend her world-record total of 153 goals. Whether those numbers increase depends on the outcome; a loss means the end of her career.

When/Where: United States vs. Japan at Kaftanzoglio Stadium, Thessaloniki, 11 a.m. ET

Laura Wilkinson, the defending Olympic champion in the 10-meter platform diving, was one of the great stories of the Sydney Games: the first U.S. woman to win the event since 1964, scoring a tremendous upset despite a right foot broken in three places.

Now healthy, she hopes to duplicate her Australian effort -- minus all the drama.

When/Where: Women's 10-meter Platform Preliminaries, 5:30 a.m. ET, at Athens Olympic Sports Complex, Maroussi

Information from the Associated Press was included in this report.