SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- It's a long way from Olympic ice hockey to World Games roller hockey, but there are some parallels for the United States.
In the 1980 Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid, N.Y., the U.S. ice hockey team had about as much chance, going in, of winning the gold medal as the American roller hockey team had of taking the World Games I title.
But the Yanks upset Russia in ice hockey and went on to win the gold medal and the affection of a nation badly in need of lift in the face of America's announced boycott of the summer Games in Moscow.
Now come the World Games and roller hockey, a sport nine out of 10 Americans have never heard of. It's based after ice hockey with the only differences being roller hockey has one less player and a ball, three inches in diameter, is substituted for a puck.
Also, the players use wheels instead of blades, a varnished hardwood floor instead of ice and they play two periods instead of three.
Argentina and Portugal were the pre-Games favorites in roller hockey with the U.S. given an outside chance. After four games, the American team is tied for first place with Portugal and Italy, each with six points. Today, the round-robin tournament will be decided with the U.S. paired against Argentina, Portugal playing Italy and Brazil meeting Chile.
The Americans can win the gold medal by beating Argentina and if Italy defeats Portugal. If the United States and Portugal both win, then the gold medal will be decided on total goals. Going in, the U.S. leads, 15 goals to 11.
Johnny Raglin's goal early in the second period Thursday earned the United States a 2-2 tie with Portugal and kept the Americans' hopes alive. Italy stayed in the running by beating winless Chile, 3-1, and Argentina buried Brazil, 6-2.
The United States-Argentina game already is a sellout and kicks off the final day of roller hockey. Italy meets Portugal in the third game of the day.
American athletes won a record eight gold medals Thursday to push their Games total to 22. The U.S. also has won 22 silvers and 14 bronze for an overall total of 58 medals. Italy is a distant second with six golds and 33 total.
American gold medal victories Thursday came in baseball, artistic skating, trampoline-tumbling and bodybuilding.
The U.S. baseball team, made up of collegiate players, defeated Korea, 4-2, as Ed Vosberg of Arizona pitched a four-hitter, while in artistic skating the winners were Paul Price and Tina Kneisley of Brighton, Mich., in free dance pairs and Anna Conklin of Bakersfield, Calif., in women's singles.
In trampoline, Beth Fairchild of Cleveland and Barbara Lehto of Vancouver, B.C., Canada tied for the gold while Steve Elliot of Amarillo, Tex., and Angie Whiting of Wilmington, Ohio took golds in tumbling. The American winners in bodybuilding were Jim Youngblood of Houston and John Kemper of Trenton, N.J.
Korea picked up three more golds in taekwondo for a total of five, while Scott Constantine of New Zealand upset Italian ace Guiseppe Cruciani and Tom Peterson of Tacoma, Wash., in the speed skating 20,000 and Monica Lucchese of Italy won the women's speed skating 5,000.