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Favored U.S. women's eight wins silver

8/22/2004

SCHINIAS, Greece -- The American men's elite eight crew
ended a four-decade drought in rowing gold medals on Sunday,
pulling out to a big lead and fending off a late charge by the
Netherlands.

The women's eight won a silver medal Sunday, but had a more
subdued celebration. The Americans were favored, but finished
behind the Romanian boat that they had edged in their initial heat.

After the men's win, Pete Cipollone turned to face the
grandstands and splashed water with both hands, celebrating a
clutch performance. Later, after receiving their medals, his
teammates threw him back into the water, laughing as their
5-foot-1, 120-pound coxswain flew through the air and splashed
down.

The Americans had set themselves up as the team to beat by
setting a world record in their initial heat a week ago.

They edged Canada in the preliminary, forcing their highly
regarded rival to enter the finals through a repechage -- or
second-chance race. Canada won that, but seemed to have nothing
left in the final, struggling to fifth.

Without the strong tail wind of last week, the U.S. men weren't
close to their world-record time of 5 minutes, 19.85 seconds, but
had little trouble with the rest of the field. They got off the
line quick and turned a half-second lead at 500 meters into a
commanding 3.26 at 1,000.

From there, it was only a matter of staying strong enough to
keep the lead. The Netherlands closed the gap by nearly 2 seconds
over the next 1,000 meters but the U.S. never appeared threatened,
finishing in 5:42.48.

The Netherlands held on for the silver. Australia got the
bronze.

Romania's women's eight, came up short by .3 seconds to the
American women in the preliminary heats, did not wait as long to
make its move this time. The Americans, undefeated in 2004 coming
in, had small leads at both the 500- and 1,000-meter marks, but
Romania picked up its stroke for the remaining 1,000 to pull away
for a 1.86-second victory, finishing in 6:17.70.

During the post-race celebrations, several men slipping by
security and swam out the boats to kiss the rowers from their
countries.

The only country to win gold in women's quadruple sculls since
it became an Olympic event kept the streak going. Now five-time
champion Germany led from start to finish.

The German boat, including now four-time sculling gold medalist
Kathrin Boron, led the whole way and crossed the line in 6:29.29,
while Britain won silver and Ukraine bronze. The United States
finished sixth.

The Romanian tandem of Constanta Burcica and Angela Alupei rowed
back from a 2-second deficit in the last half of their 2,000-meter
race on Sunday to defend their Olympic title.

It was the third consecutive gold medal in the event for
Burcica, who won with a different partner in 1996 at Atlanta. The
Germans won the silver and the Netherlands took bronze.

After falling behind the Australians and Germans early, the
Romanians surged past both boats down the stretch to finish in
6:49.90.

No one could match the defending Olympic champions in the men's
lightweight double sculls. Poland's Tomasz Kucharski and Robert
Sycz pulled out an early lead and held of France, finishing in
6:20.93. France was a half-second back.

Greeks Vasileios Plymeros and Nikolaos Skiathitis gave the host
country its first Olympic rowing medal. They were fourth by more
than a second with 500 meters to go and sprinted past Denmark for
their country's historic win, eliciting a brief but enthusiastic
cheer from the home crowd.

Denmark, two-time defending world champion in the lightweight
four, added an Olympic victory that never seemed in doubt from the
start. That meant a second gold and third Olympic medal in the
event for Eskild Ebbesen, who rowed in a winning boat in Atlanta
and won a bronze in Sydney.

Denmark finished in 6:01.39, followed by Australia and Italy.

The three-time defending world champion Germans didn't have it
in the men's quadruple sculls. Russia took the gold in 5:56.86,
followed by the Czech Republic and Ukraine, while the Germans
crossed the line in fifth.