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Medals no surprise, but U.S. victors were Platform is crowded, but not with favorites BARCELONA '92


BARCELONA, Spain -- Welcome to the Summer Olympics of parity.

Twenty countries hit double digits on the medals table.

One Germany wasn't as powerful as two.

And the Unified Team of the former Soviet Union went out with a last bang, earning 45 golds and 112 medals overall to stand atop the Olympic pyramid.

But for the United States, the Games that ended yesterday were filled with exhilarating surprises and several notable failures.

Could anyone have guessed that America would earn more golds in synchronized swimming (two) than in boxing (one)?

That gymnast Kim Zmeskal would buckle under the pressure of expectations and win only a team bronze, while shy teen-ager Shannon Miller would collect five medals?

That Michael Johnson, a lock in the men's 200-meter --, would show up weak from a virus and fail to qualify for the final, and that Carl Lewis would come back from a dismal trials performance to dominate track and field?

"As far as we are concerned, we think our performance here in Barcelona has been outstanding," said LeRoy Walker, the leader of the U.S. delegation and the man expected to be elected president of the U.S. Olympic Committee later this year.

"There was a time when there would be three countries, the Soviet Union, East Germany and the U.S. at the top in terms of numbers of medals," Walker said. "But now, we truly have a world Games."

How good were the Americans?

They were No. 2 with a bullet on the medals table, collecting 108 overall, ahead of Germany, which won 82 and is still attempting to combine systems from the old east and west.

Only Los Angeles in 1984 and St. Louis in 1904 provided grander stages and more medals for the Americans.

But in Barcelona, with 28 medal sports, more prizes were given out than in any previous Olympics.

Americans were winning on the track (30 medals overall) and in the pool (27 in swimming), but also at sea (nine in yachting).

They also won a competition they would have preferred to lose: )) most athletes to fail drug tests.

Only four of the more than 10,000 athletes present tested positive for banned drugs, and two were Americans, hammer thrower Jud Logan and shot-putter Bonnie Dasse.

"Yes, we are embarrassed," Walker said. "Any time we get a positive test, we are. Even though we did have these two in track and field, we do more testing now than we ever have before. Yes, we did have two positives, but we do feel that we are making very, very definite strides in the area."

For the United States, though, these were mostly Games of gold, 37 triumphs in all.

Best team: The Dreamers, of course, the U.S. men's basketball team that ended two weeks of routs with a 117-85 gold-medal triumph over Croatia. Some of the players then showed up with American flags over their shoulders, not necessarily out of a sense of patriotism, but to cover patches of a shoe company they don't endorse.

Most overrated team: The U.S. women's basketball team that lost to the Unified Team and nearly lost in the bronze-medal game to Cuba.

Best records: Kevin Young lowered Edwin Moses' 9-year-old mark in the 400 intermediate hurdles, and the men's 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relay teams created world standards.

Best records II: Check the pool, where three American relay teams smashed world marks and Mike Barrowman of Potomac, Md., bettered his 200-breaststroke world best.

Courage award: U.S. boardsailers who competed in a polluted sea. Yes, there really are floating refrigerators in the Mediterranean.

Advertising campaign gone bust: Dan and Dave, of course. Two months ago, Dan O'Brien and Dave Johnson were shoe-ins for the decathlon gold and silver. Now, after O'Brien's harsh TV commentary and Johnson's bronze-medal performance, their mothers aren't even speaking to each other.

Best old-timers: Evelyn Ashford, 35, became the oldest U.S. woman to win a track and field gold when she led off for the 400 relay team, and Pablo Morales, 27, champion of the men's 100 butterfly, was the oldest gold medalist in swimming history.

Sorest losers: Sprinter Gwen Torrence and swimmer Jenny Thompson both accused winning medalists of being tainted by performance-enhancing drugs.

Best kids: Two 16-year-olds started a medal collection. Jennifer Capriati upset Steffi Graf to win the women's tennis gold, and Anita Nall of Towson, Md., had a bronze in the 200 breaststroke, a silver in the 100 breaststroke and a gold in the 4 x 100-medley relay.

Worst moment: Zmeskal facing the media in tears after finishing 10th in the gymnastics all-around, while her coach, Bela Karolyi, XTC was on the bus.

Best comeback: Eighteen months after doctors told her she was two days away from having her feet amputated, Gail Devers became the fastest woman on the planet, winning the 100 --.

Worst haircuts: The bald look sported in protest by the U.S. men's volleyball team.

Farewells: Never say never among Olympians, but Matt Biondi leaves the Olympics with 11 swimming medals, Janet Evans won one more gold, Steve Timmons came back for one last volleyball bronze.

Best Charles Barkley quote: "I am a black millionaire, I can live anywhere I want."

Best quote (non-Barkley division): After getting his gold, Morales said: "In life, we don't always realize our goals. And not all of our dreams do come true. But this one did."

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