A few events to help you avoid the post-Phelpsian meltdown
BEIJING -- OK, now what?
Michael Phelps has hung up his goggles for the rest of these Olympic Games, which just might turn into the PGA Tour without Tiger Woods. Unless the USOC convinces Phelps to try modern pentathlon or subs him onto the U.S. basketball team in place of Tayshaun Prince, the show will go on without him. The question is whether anyone will care.
One of the main draws of Week 2 in Beijing was supposed to be hurdler Liu Xiang, arguably the biggest sports star in China and the 2004 gold medalist in the 110-meter hurdles. Then Liu was injured Monday and pulled out of the Games. Chinese journalists were crying over the news. Seriously.
So with Phelps finished and Liu lost to injury, the pickings are slim. But not nonexistent. If you're searching for reasons to maintain interest, here are 12 things to keep tabs on this week:
If America has one thing it cares about in the post-Phelps Games, this is it. The mission is simple: win the gold or turn in your passports. So far, so dominant -- but we're just now getting to the elimination games. The gold-medal game is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, Beijing time.
Fan interest, on a scale of 1 to Phelps: 9.
He's the last vestige of American hope in boxing, the only Yank to even make the medal round -- which pretty well makes the collapse of the sport in the United States complete. Wilder was fortunate to even make it that far, tying Moroccan Mohammed Arjaoui and being awarded the victory on punch statistics. The 6-foot-7 Wilder, who played junior-college basketball, fights in the heavyweight semifinals Wednesday. (Brad Pitt -- the Australian heavyweight, not the American actor -- was bounced out of the Fight Club in the quarterfinals.)
Fan interest, on a scale of 1 to Phelps: 4.
It has two days left as an Olympic sport, having been shut down by the IOC due to excessive U.S. dominance. I have no idea what that means. The Americans have given up a run in these Olympics, one of them, while scoring a measly 53 in seven games. They've thrown three no-hitters. They've won every gold medal since the sport was introduced in 1996, and will win it again Thursday. Give the sport another century or two and someone else is bound to win a gold medal.
Fan interest, on a scale of 1 to Phelps: 5.5.
After setting a world record in the 100-meter dash Saturday night while doing everything but skipping over the last 10 meters, what will Bolt do in the 200? Hand springs? Tai chi? Goose stepping? If you like end-zone celebrations -- or hate them -- this will be must-see TV.
Fan interest, on a scale of 1 to Phelps: 8.
The consensus opinion in the track world is that if you can be convinced that one sprinter is absolutely clean, it's Felix. The preacher's daughter and Sunday school teacher has been exceptionally fast forever -- but now she'll have to prove faster than the Jamaicans, who swept the 100 meters Sunday. The final is Thursday.
Fan interest, on a scale of 1 to Phelps: 7.
Men's 400 relay
American track and field is off to about as bad a start as U.S. boxing, having won none of the 12 gold medals awarded so far. The Americans probably will be chasing the Jamaicans here, in Tyson Gay's bid for redemption after not making the 100 final.
Fan interest, on a scale of 1 to Phelps: 7.5.
Men's 400 meters
It will be an American faceoff, Jeremy Wariner vs. LaShawn Merritt. Entering the Games, they owned all 10 of the world's best 2008 times in this event and both won their first-round heats Monday. They should be there together at the wire in the final Thursday.
Fan interest, on a scale of 1 to Phelps: 5.
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh
The American beach volleyball tandem already has had all sorts of adventure. They bumped the ball with George W., and Walsh's wedding ring slipped off in one match, necessitating an excavation of the sand court to find it. They've won 106 consecutive matches, which is preposterous. They'll need to win two more for another gold medal.
Fan interest, on a scale of 1 to Phelps: 6.
The Redeemettes actually are not in need of redemption, taking a 30-game Olympic winning streak into the quarterfinals. They've been beating opponents even more than their more celebrated male counterparts, with an average winning margin so far of 43 points per game.
Fan interest, on a scale of 1 to Phelps: 5.5.
The gym pixies get their final Olympic moment Tuesday on the balance beam. Americans Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson versus Chinese Shanshan Li and Fei Cheng should be the highlight matchup. Liukin has won four medals and Johnson three so far in Beijing.
Fan interesting, on a scale of 1 to Phelps: 8.
Natalie du Toit
The inspirational South African had part of her left leg amputated in 2001 after being struck by a car while riding her scooter. That forced her to abandon training for Olympic swimming and enter the Paralympics in 2004. But now she's the first Paralympian to compete in the Olympics, competing in the open water swim. She competes Wednesday morning, Beijing time.
Fan interest, on a scale of 1 to Phelps: 3.
He carried the flag in the Opening Ceremony for Lichtenstein as the nation's only Olympian. Since then he's been chillin', waiting around for the men's marathon on the final day of the Games. That's a lot of time for the world's 47th-ranked marathoner to shop for souvenirs.
Fan interest, on a scale of 1 to Phelps: 0.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.
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