Olympic Roundup: USA stars shine

Updated Aug. 12, 2012 at 10:41 PM
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LONDON, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- An American Olympic effort often fueled by competitors not used to the spotlight was successfully completed Sunday by a group that lives in it.

The London Games, 30th of the modern era, ended as they had begun more than two weeks earlier -- with huge crowds turning out to celebrate the largest gathering of athletes in the world.

By the tens of thousands they lined the streets of central London Sunday to watch a Ugandan win the first and only medal for his country at these Olympics. They packed the boxing arena to see one of their local heroes expand Britain's list of champions.

Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda crosses the finish line to win the Men's Marathon at the London 2012 Summer Olympics on August 12, 2012 in Westminster, London. Kiprotich took the Gold Medal with a time of 2:08:01 in the race. UPI/Brian Kersey
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Even the small grandstands built to accommodate the finish of the modern pentathlon were filled as Laura Asadauskaite of Lithuania crossed the line to become the 302nd and final gold medalist of the Olympics.

Most of all they showed up to see if the Spanish could pull off the upset and defeat a team full of multi-millionaire superstars that made up the United States men's basketball team.

As it turned out, they could not.

Nevertheless, it was an entertaining contest that resulted in a 107-100 U.S victory in which Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant combined to score 66 points.

It was the final gold medal out of the 46 won by Americans at the London Olympics -- 10 more than were collected at the 2008 Games and eight more than were won by China.

United States' Lebron James (L) clebrates with teammates at the conclusion of the US gold medal win over Spain, 107-100 at the 2012 Summer Olympics, August 12, 2012, in London, England. UPI/Mike Theiler
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The Chinese led in gold medals four years ago 51-36.

Although U.S. swimmers led the way with 16 gold medals, the Americans increased their victory total from Beijing in track and field, gymnastics, judo, shooting, tennis, water polo, wrestling and, thanks to the arrival of women in the sport, boxing.

In all, Americans won at least one gold medal in 15 different sports. Compared with their performances on their home turf in 2008, the Chinese produced six fewer victories in gymnastics and three less in judo, shooting and weightlifting.

The overall U.S. medal haul reached 104, 17 more than the Chinese and 21 more than Russia.

In addition to the basketball triumph Sunday, the U.S. gold medal total was increased by the wrestling win from two-time NCAA champion Jacob Varner in the 96-kilogram class.

Jacob Stephen Varner of the United States of America celebrates his victory over Valerii Andriitsev of the Ukraine to win the Gold Medal in the Men's 96kg Freestyle Wrestling at the London 2012 Summer Olympics on August 12, 2012 in London. UPI/Ron Sachs
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That was one of 15 events that closed out the Olympic competition, the first of the day being the marathon that was won by Ugandan Stephen Kiprotich. On a warm, muggy afternoon in which almost 20 percent of the starters did not finish the race, Kiprotich refused to chase the early leaders because he felt the pace was much to fast.

He was right about that and when he put on his closing spurt at the 24-mile mark no one could respond.

Uganda became the 85th different country to win a medal at the London Olympics and the 54th one to claim a gold one.

Britain finished with 29 gold medals, the last one captured by super-heavyweight Anthony Joshua in the closing bout of the boxing program.

Only once before have British athletes won more than 29 gold medals at an Olympics. That came 108 years ago when London first hosted the Games and found the competition lacking. There were 56 gold medals for the home team on that occasion, but since then there had never been more than 19 until these last two weeks.

The spectacle ended in traditional fashion with the closing ceremonies at Olympic Stadium.

As is always the case, the athletes of the world were invited to gather again in four years to celebrate the Games of the next Olympiad. That event will be held in a city with a reputation for celebrating -- Rio de Janeiro.

Fireworks explode above the olympic stadium at the end of the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Summer Olympics on August 12, 2012 in London. UPI/Hugo Philpott
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