Things to watch: Monday, Day 9
Forget Michael Phelps and the world's fastest man. On Monday, the U.S. women -- namely soccer's Mia Hamm and softball's Lisa Fernandez -- rule.
Hamm, 32, is the face of America's soccer team, the most famous women's player on the planet. Fernandez, 33, is the U.S. softball team's security blanket, the one that everyone depends on in a moment of crisis.
And on Monday, Fernandez hopes to lead U.S. softball past Australia and to its third straight gold medal. Hamm has her sights on extending her international career at least one more game (she has said the Athens Games will be her final international competition). The U.S. women' soccer team clashes with Germany -- the defending World Cup champion which defeated the Americans 3-0 on U.S. soil 11 months ago -- in the semifinals.
(Event times below might vary from TV times. Many events will be taped and broadcast later.)
Track and field
|Now that the world's fastest man and woman have been decided, it's on to the men's 400 meters, won at the past five Olympics by an American. U.S. sprinter Jeremy Wariner, who posted the fastest qualifying time, tries to extend the winning streak to an even half-dozen, though teammates Derrick Brew and Otis Harris will challenge Wariner for the title.
In all, six track medals are up for grabs.When: Men's discus, 1 p.m. ET; men's 400 meters, 2:10 p.m. ET; women's triple jump, noon ET; women's 800, 1:55 p.m. ET; women's 5,000, 2:50 p.m. ET. Expect track and field events to air during NBC's prime-time window, from 8 p.m. to midnight ET.
|Paul Hamm was shut out Sunday and failed to add any medals to his collection after becoming the first U.S. man to win the all-around title last week.
He gets another chance -- along with all-around women's gold medalist Carly Patterson of the United States -- Monday as the individual events wrap up.When: Men's vault, 1 p.m. ET; women's beam, 1:35 p.m. ET; men's parallel, 2:10 p.m. ET; women's floor, 2:45 p.m.; men's horizontal bar, 3:20 p.m. ET. Like track and field, gymnastics will be included in NBC's prime -time window.
|Some say the toughest thing to do is beat a team three times in the same season. How about three times in one Olympics? Or three times in eight days?
The U.S. softball team is 8-0 in the Games, has outscored its Olympic foes 46-0 (nary a run allowed since July!) and rides a 78-game winning streak. The Americans routed Australia 10-0 in five innings on Aug. 15, then 5-0 in Saturday's semifinals. The Americans face Australia again in Monday's final because the Aussies advanced after beating Japan in the bronze medal game.
To win gold, the U.S. women must get past Tanya Harding. Nope, not the notorious figure skater. This one spells her name with an "a'' and has an "A-plus'' fastball.
Harding, 3-0 and unscored on in 26 innings here, led UCLA to a win over American coach Mike Candrea's Arizona team for the 1995 NCAA title. She's the only pitcher to beat the U.S. twice in Olympic play.
Of course, the American pitching staff is, as ESPN.com's Jim Caple put it, the best foursome since Yoko Ono split up the Beatles.
Regardless of what happens, expect emotions to fly from U.S. coach Mike Candrea. He had hoped to celebrate two special moments in Greece this summer -- his 28th wedding anniversary and a gold medal. But while travelling with the team on its pre-Olympic tour, his wife, Sue, fell ill on July 16. The 49-year-old -- who had given up her accounting job to accompany the team -- died two days later from a brain aneurysm.
Candrea wasn't sure if he should continue with the team, but his children and mother-in-law all told him he belonged in Athens.
"I'm glad I have (the team) in my life right now, because they're helping me get through this," Candrea said before the Games opened. "It's been a real therapy for me to come here."
And it's no surprise that the U.S. softballers have dedicated their effort to Sue's memory. Said Jennie Finch, who was especially close to Sue after playing for Candrea at Arizona: "Whatever it takes to get that medal."When: Australia vs. United States, 9 a.m. ET. Will air live on USA Network.
|Eleven months have passed, but the U.S. women are still smarting from their 3-0 loss to Germany in the Women's World Cup semifinals. For one, the defeat occurred on U.S. soil. It also meant the Americans' second straight disappointment in a major competition after settling for silver in Sydney.
The U.S. women have struggled at times in the Games, but got a boost last time out by switching formations and inserting Brandi Chastain into the lineup at left back.
Birgit Prinz -- who scored four goals in Germany's 8-0 opener -- leads Germany, which had two starters retire from its World Cup team.
Mia Hamm also is playing at the top of her game and has scored 153 goals -- most of any man or woman -- in 265 games since debuting with U.S. soccer 17 years ago.
Unlike Fernandez, who has said she's already eyeing the chance to medal again in 2008, Hamm -- who's married to Chicago Cubs shortstop Nomar Garciaparra -- has announced her impending retirement.When: Germany vs. United States, 11 a.m. ET. Will air live on MSNBC.
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