Pole vaulter wins USA's lone gold of day

ATHENS, Greece -- Of the 20 gold medals available at the
Olympics on Friday, only one went to an American.

The last one.

What was easily the worst day of the Athens Games for the United States team also could be considered among the nation's worst at any Olympics.

The biggest disappointment was the men's basketball team losing in the semifinals. This will be the first time the NBA players won't be going home with a gold medal. And they might not even get bronze. Their foe in the consolation game Sunday will be Lithuania, a team that has already beaten them.

Marion Jones, who was the Michael Phelps of the 2000 Games, was shut out on the track, landing eight inches short of a medal in the bronze jump -- her lone individual event. She then was part of a botched handoff on the 400-meter relay, an event the United States has traditionally dominated.

The U.S. tradition in diving was even stronger, until Friday.

With Caesar Garcia and Kyle Prandi not even making the finals in the 10-meter platform, Americans were shut out of any medals for the first time in 92 years.

The boxing team also is capping a miserable performance, their
worst in 56 years. Andre Ward provided a bit of good news Friday by
advancing to the light heavyweight finals. The bad news was that he
was booed from the time he walked into the arena, getting cheers
only when he slipped on the canvas.

That response was tame compared to what happened in downtown Athens, where more than 2,000 people lit fires, smashed windows and
swung clubs to protest a visit by Secretary of State Colin Powell -- and he isn't due to arrive until Saturday.

"Unless we are playing in the USA, the crowd is against us. We are used to that," said William Priddy, whose U.S. volleyball team
was swept by Brazil in the semifinals.

One bad day out of 14 so far won't overshadow a phenomenal performance by the overall squad. Americans remain on pace for
their most medals ever -- although China did move within two of the
lead for the most golds.

Still, on a Friday to forget, even the good news came with an asterisk.

The women's basketball team made the finals, but only by four points, in a game that was tight throughout. Next up is undefeated Australia,
whose unofficial theme has been "bring on the Americans'' as they hope to avenge a loss on their home turf in the 2000 finals.

A bronze in synchronized swimming was noteworthy mostly because one of the performers will be trading in a swimsuit for a jail jumpsuit. Tammy Crow will soon begin serving a three-month sentence
for vehicular manslaughter stemming from a car crash that killed
her boyfriend and a 12-year-old boy.

As for that lone gold medal, it came in pole vaulting.

Tim Mack earned it by clearing an Olympic record 19 feet, 6inches. Boisterous, helmet-wearing teammate Toby Stevenson took silver.

The stadium was practically empty when they finished. As for their medal ceremony?

It'll have to wait until Saturday.