Crow in Friday's free routine

ATHENS, Greece -- Tammy Crow was on her feet, yelling and
waving the American flag while her synchronized swimming teammates
flipped in the air and spun through the water.

The woman who needed a judge's permission to compete at the
Athens Olympics is now in contention for a medal.

Russia, Japan and the United States were 1-2-3 after the Olympic
team technical event Thursday night, the same places they finished
in the duet competition a day earlier.

Russia was first with 49.667 points and Japan second with

The Americans were third with 48.584, giving them a chance for
their first team medal since they claimed the first Olympic gold in
team competition in 1996.

Crow didn't swim in the technical portion, but she will be
flipping in the air as a key part of Friday's free routine.

"She's totally focused on tomorrow," said Erin Dobratz, who
will be replaced by Crow. "I think she's going to give the
performance of a lifetime to get a medal."

A judge allowed Crow to travel to Athens after she pleaded no
contest to two counts of vehicular manslaughter in the 2003 deaths
of her boyfriend and a 12-year-old boy. She was sentenced to three
months in jail.

Crow lost control of her SUV and slammed into two trees after
being at a party in Northern California. Last week, a three-judge
panel denied her appeal, and she is set to report to jail in

"This has been her dream for so long, especially with all the
trouble she went through back home," teammate Anna Kozlova said.
"She's such a team leader for us. She's going to do very well. Her
mind is on what's going on right now. She's very good at staying in
the moment."

Crow later joined the team to pose for pictures on the deck
wearing her jacket with "USA" on the back.

"She's got a lot of team spirit," U.S. coach Chris Carver

The U.S. team of Alison Bartosik, Dobratz, Rebecca Jasontek,
Kozlova, Sara Lowe, Lauren McFall, Stephanie Nesbitt and Kendra
Zanotto performed to a marching band medley, featuring pounding
drums that conjured up images of a college football halftime show.

"It's a very difficult program. It's the fastest one out
there," Carver said. "We took a risk, but we're sitting in third
right now. It was worth the risk."

In keeping with their theme, the Americans wore green, black and
white sequined suits featuring drums on the front and black musical
notes on the back.

"I could see the judges were smiling, so I knew we were doing
well. They rarely smile," said Kozlova, who earned bronze in the
duet event with her partner Bartosik.

Russia, the defending Olympic champion, has won the last two
world championships. The Japanese have finished second to the
Russians in every major international meet since 2000. The
Americans finished third at last year's world championships.

The Russians received three marks of 10.0 for overall
impression, the highest of the competition. Two of their swimmers,
Anastasia Davydova and Anastasia Ermakova, won gold in the duet
event Wednesday.

Points for the technical and free routines are added together to
decide the medals. All eight teams will swim the free routine
Friday night.

Each team's technical routine had to include eight required
elements, including the "rocket split, 180-degree spin," in which
the swimmers split their legs in the air while spinning underwater.

The Japanese had the most unusual entry, with the first swimmer
diving in and the others grabbing the foot of the teammate ahead of
them before diving in. Their team includes Miya Tachibana and Miho
Takeda, who won silver in the duet event.

The sellout crowd chanted "Hel-las! Hel-las!" when the Greek
team finished. But fans booed their technical marks, which ranged
from 9.2 to 9.4, leaving them in last place.