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Olympic Roundup: Big crowds spur home team

Aug. 2, 2012 at 6:19 PM  |  Updated Aug. 2, 2012 at 9:27 PM   |   Comments

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LONDON, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Athletes from the United States enjoyed their best day of the Olympics Thursday and so did those representing the nation hosting the biggest show in sports.

Any day is a good day for the British when one of their heroes has a gold medal put around his or her neck, and that happened three times Thursday in front of crowds so large they have made at least the early stages of these Games a success.

When cycling star Bradley Wiggins rode to a time trial win Wednesday, a sea of humanity lined the roads in what was an enormous security headache for the organizers.

Every seat has been filled at the rowing venue west of London to watch the home rowers and, again on Thursday, competitors not used to performing in front of crowds so large brought Britain gold medals in the canoe slalom, shooting's double trap and cycling's team sprint.

There were six medals in all for the British Thursday and their total of five golds to this point ranks behind only four countries.

As has been certain from the start, however, two of those countries are in a class by themselves.

Michael Phelps, Rebecca Soni, Tyler Clary, Kayla Harrison, Gabby Douglas and a crew of eight women rowers all won gold for the American side Thursday.

There were eight medals in all and, after a relatively quiet day from China, the United States moved into a tie with the Chinese for gold medals at 18 and jumped three front of the overall total with 37.

Bronze Medalist Laszlo Cseh of Hungary (L-R), Silver Medalist Ryan Lochte of the United States and Gold Medalist Micheal Phelps of the United States pose for photographers after the Men's 200M Individual Medley Final at the London 2012 Summer Olympics on August 2, 2012 in Stratford, London. Cseh finished with a time of 1:56.22, Lochte at 1:54.90, and Phelps at 1:54.27 in the final. UPI/Brian Kersey
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Phelps earned his first individual gold of these Olympics in the 200-meter individual medley, his 16th victory and 20th medal in total at the last three Games. He won the event for the third Olympics in a row and no swimmer in the history of the Games had ever done that.

Soni set her second world record in as many days while winning the 200-meter breaststroke. She also won the race four years ago in Beijing.

Clary's gold was a surprise since fellow-American Ryan Lochte was in the race, but Lochte struggled to finish third. He then returned a half hour later and wound up second behind Phelps in their duel.

Rebecca Soni celebrates her Gold Medal victory in the Women's 200m Breaststroke Finals at the London 2012 Summer Olympics on August 2, 2012 in London. Soni finished in 2:19.59. UPI/Ron Sachs
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Harrison won her gold in the 78-kilogram class of judo and it was the first in that sport for an American in the history of the Olympics. She maintained her composure while belting out the Star Spangled Banner as it was played during the victory ceremony, but when the final note sounded she burst into tears.

Kayla Harrison of the USA (Blue) lands on top of Mayra Aguiar of Brazil in semifinals of Women's 78KG Judo at the ExCel center at the London 2012 Summer Olympics on August 2, 2012 in London. Harrison won the gold. UPI/Terry Schmitt
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Douglas became gymnastics' newest superstar, winning the all-around title. She was the third straight American to win the Olympic gold medal in the event.

And the U.S. rowing crew kept its winning streak alive in the eights. The Americans have not lost an international final in the event since 2005 and that stretch now includes two Olympics.

Things were not so good for the Americans in the boxing ring, where only two U.S. fighters were left to compete after two more were defeated to extend what has become a seven-bout losing streak.

As usual, stories abounded throughout the Olympics -- including that Stepanka Hilgertova of the Czech Republic.

In Atlanta 16 years ago, Hilgertova won the gold medal in the women's kayak slalom race. On that occasion Myriam Fox-Jerusalmi of France was the bronze medal winner.

On Thursday, Hilgertova raced in her fifth Olympics at the age of 44. She has seen it all in the sport, what with won two gold medals to her credit in addition to suffering the disappointment of having her kayak capsize during the race in Beijing en route to a ninth-place finish.

Among the competitors in Thursday's race was the daughter of the woman who finished third back in Atlanta. Jessica Fox, representing Australia, finished second at the London Olympics, one place higher than her mother. Hilgertova, competing against her second generation of the Fox family, wound up fourth.

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