05
Feb
09

smart and cross help americans to surprise silver

Courtesy of NBColympics.com

BEIJING (AP) — Evgenia Lamanova figures Russia’s gold medal in women’s team foil fencing could restore some honor to a country struggling both at the Olympics and at home.

Russia won the gold medal with an easy 28-11 win over the U.S. team on Saturday night, but Lamonova’s mind also was on her country’s military conflict with former Soviet state Georgia over South Ossetia.

“This means another gold medal for my country,” she said. “We don’t have many this time. That’s why I would like to inform our team to do better. I would like to wish them luck, more luck. I don’t know why we are having these strange games. Maybe it’s because of the war. I don’t know, but I would like to see us do a lot better at these games for everyone on the Russian team.”

Russia is performing well below its previous Olympic standards. The country, which was a strong second in the final medal counts in 2000 and 2004, has won fewer than half the medals of the U.S. and China so far in Beijing — and only five golds.

But Russia’s team of Lamonova, Victoria Nikishina and Svetlana Boyko won gold Saturday, simply outdoing Americans Emily Cross (Harvard ’09), Hanna Thompson and Erinn Smart (Columbia ’01-BC) through most of the final. The finals feature nine three-minute rotations, with a point per touch. Through eight rotations, the Russians led 20-5.

The Russians were so dominant, the Americans failed to score in four straight rotations.

After beating the Americans, Russia’s team and its coaches met for a group hug and bounced around the strip wildly, a Russian flag draped around them.

The U.S. didn’t expect to go so far. The Americans were seeded seventh in the quarterfinals, but defeated world champion Poland, then beat No. 3 seed Hungary in the semifinals.

“I don’t think we even expected this to turn out as it did,” Smart said. “We were the underdogs going into all of our matches. Some other countries didn’t expect us to be as strong as we were.”

The complete release can be found at NBColympics.com.

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