AP National Writer
LONDON -- Their closest rivals were still on the floor competing when the Chinese whipped out five big gold stars and held them up in the shape of their flag.
The Chinese won their second straight Olympic title in men’s gymnastics and third and in four games in a rout Monday, making fools of everyone who wrote them off after a dismal performance in qualifying.
"We don’t have any faults. That’s our secret to beat the Japanese and to beat everyone," Zhang Chenglong said. "In preliminaries, we had a little bit of faults. But tonight was completely perfect."
It took five minutes and a video review to sort out the silver and bronze medalists after Japan questioned the score of three-time world champion Kohei Uchimura on pommel horse, the last routine. Japan jumped from fourth to second after judges revised Uchimura’s score, bumping Britain down to bronze and Ukraine off the medals podium.
It was the British men’s first team medal in a century, and it set off raucous celebrations at the O2 Arena. Even Princes William and Harry joined in.
"To win a medal in your home games, I’ll take that any day," Kristian Thomas said. "We never actually had the silver in our hands, so there’s no real disappointment."
Tell that to the Japanese, who were bested by the Chinese yet again. Japan was the runner-up to China in Beijing, as well as at the last four world championships.
And unlike last year’s world championships, where the Japanese had appeared to close the gap on China, this one wasn’t even close. China finished with 275.997 points, more than four points better than Japan.
China now has gone eight years without losing at a major competition.
"At the very beginning it was fourth for Japan so I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t think anything," a somber Uchimura said. "I was thinking, ‘It’s fourth, it’s fourth.’ Even after it was changed, I was not too happy."
The Americans weren’t all that happy, either.
Bronze medalists four years ago, they could practically feel their first gold since 1984 after finishing No. 1 in qualifying, with captain Jon Horton jokingly asking if they could claim their prizes. But everyone gets a do-over in team finals, and whatever momentum the Americans had evaporated when Danell Leyva and John Orozco fell on pommel horse, their second event.
They wound up fifth, six points behind China and almost two behind Britain.
"There’s definitely disappointment," Horton said. "We are one of the best teams in the world."
But China is in a class by itself.
The Chinese have been like playground bullies most of the last decade, sauntering into every competition and scooping up as many gold medals as possible: Team golds at the last five world championships and Olympic titles in Sydney and Beijing, where they won all but one of the men’s medals.
They probably would have claimed that, too, had they bothered to contend for vault.
But with most of the Beijing squad moving on and a rule change putting a premium on all-arounders, China has looked -- dare we say it? -- vulnerable of late. Chen Yibing, a double gold medalist in Beijing, even tried to dampen the expectations this spring, saying it would be "extremely hard" for the Chinese to defend their team title. It didn’t get any easier when Teng Haibin, the 2004 gold medalist on pommel horse, dropped out with an injury Thursday and had to be replaced by Guo Weiyang.
An abysmal performance in qualifying only furthered the doubt when they finished sixth. Sixth!
While everyone else was gleefully expecting the end of a dynasty, China was as cocky and cool as always.
"We have the abilities and the skills," said Chen Yibing, one of only two holdovers from the Beijing squad. Asked when he knew his team would win, he said: "After getting up from bed."
Lochte falters again, but Franklin, Grevers shine
LONDON -- Missy Franklin stared out on the horde of reporters, suddenly sounding very much like a high school senior-to-be. "I don’t like being up here alone," she said nervously.
Then, just like that, she turned on a big smile and worked the room like a pro.
Thanks to this Colorado teenager, America’s swim hopes are back on track at the Olympics.
Michael Phelps has yet to win a gold medal, and Ryan Lochte’s star has dimmed just a bit. So it was Franklin providing a much-needed boost to swimming’s powerhouse nation, coming back less than 14 minutes after swimming a semifinal heat to win the first gold medal of what figures to be a dazzling career.
"Indescribable," the 17-year-old Franklin said after rallying to win the 100-meter backstroke Monday. "I still can’t believe that happened. I don’t even know what to think. I saw my parents’ reaction on the screen and I just started bawling. I can’t even think right now."
After finishing up the semis of the 200 freestyle, she hopped out of the pool and headed to the diving well for a quick warmdown. She didn’t even have time to make it to the practice pool, not when her bigger event was coming right up.
Even Phelps was amazed at Franklin’s stamina, saying he had never done back-to-back races that close together at such a major meet. His quickest turnaround was about a half-hour.
"She’s a racer and she knows what to do," Phelps said.
Matt Grevers kept the gold medals coming for the U.S. in rat-a-tat fashion, following up Franklin’s win with one of his own in the men’s 100 back. For good measure, Nick Thoman made it a 1-2 finish for the red, white and blue.
Rebecca Soni nearly pulled out a third U.S. gold, rallying furiously on the return leg of the 100 breaststroke. But she couldn’t quite catch blazing Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte, a gold medalist at the tender age of 15.
Good thing for the U.S. that Franklin and the other Americans are coming through.
Phelps missed the podium in his 2012 Olympic debut, and Lochte has turned in two straight disappointing performances after opening the games with a dominant win in the 400 individual medley. He finished fourth and off the podium Monday night in the 200 freestyle, which France’s Yannick Agnel won by a full body length against a field with gold medalists galore.
On Sunday, Lochte anchored the U.S. in the 4x100 free relay, taking over with a seemingly comfortable lead. But Agnel chased him down on the final leg, giving France the gold.
Now, another defeat.
"I did my best," Lochte said. "I guess sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I gave it 110 percent. There’s probably some things I messed up on, but you live and learn. (Agnel is) a great racer. There’s no doubt about it. He’s quick and he showed it last night and tonight. I’m happy for him. He did good."
Franklin, who was rattled less than two weeks before the Olympics by the Aurora theater shooting not far from her home, barely advanced from the 200 free semis. She qualified for Tuesday night’s final with the eighth-fastest time, but clearly she was saving something for the race that really mattered.
She’s still got five more events to go, having started her Olympics with a relay bronze and leaving plenty of time to come away from these games as America’s big star in the post-Phelps era.
U.S. women volleyball defeats Brazil
LONDON -- The U.S. women’s volleyball team defeated Brazil 3-1 on Monday at the Olympics in an early-round rematch of the Beijing Games final won by the Brazilians.
Destinee Hooker had 23 points and Jordan Larson added 18 for the top-ranked Americans, who won 25-18, 25-17, 22-25, 25-21 to improve to 2-0 in pool play at Earls Court.
Sheilla Castro had 15 points for No. 2 Brazil, which was energized after a third-set victory but lost on Logan Tom’s floater in the fourth set.
Brazil has lost five straight international matches to the U.S. The teams are 21-21 in career play.
Larson, a wing spiker making her Olympic debut, hit a floater to put the Americans up 23-17 in the first set. She spiked for set point, as Brazil looked out of sorts.
The U.S. team pulled away in the second set with a 7-point run, capped by Tom’s spike. Brazil twice held off the U.S. at set point and looked to have some momentum, until Hooker’s kill ended it.
Brazil rebounded by going up 8-3 early in the third, but the Americans rallied for a 16-15 lead on Christa Harmotto’s block. It was back and fourth until Harmotto’s attempt to return Thaisa Menezes’ spike went awry.
Venus, Serena Williams advance in London
WIMBLEDON, England -- Four-time Olympian Venus Williams walked off Wimbledon’s cozy Court 2 gleefully waving her fist as fans chanted, "U-S-A! U-S-A!"
Twenty minutes later, at the other end of the All England Club, Serena Williams departed Court 1 with a triumphant grin and a shout of "Wooo!"
Ten minutes after that, Roger Federer closed out his latest Centre Court victory in pursuit of his first career singles gold medal.
A schedule backlog transformed the Olympics at Wimbledon into a parade of Grand Slam champions Monday, with the Williams sisters and Federer all playing at the same time.
And all won.
"What a good day for fans between me, Venus, Roger and all the other players," Serena Williams said. "It’s really such a great experience."
Venus Williams waited an extra day because of rain to begin her bid for a record fourth gold medal in Olympic tennis, then defeated recent French Open runner-up Sara Errani of Italy 6-3, 6-1.
Serena completed a July sweep of Poland’s Radwanska sisters by beating Urszula in the second round, 6-2, 6-3.
Federer also reached the third round, beating Julien Benneteau of France 6-2, 6-2.
After winning in singles, the Williams sisters began a bid for their third Olympic doubles gold medal by eliminating Sorana Cirstea and Simona Halep of Romania 6-3, 6-2. They won in 2000 and 2008.
"Another gold medal would be amazing," Venus said. "I can’t even imagine the feeling. I think my head would be too big, and no one would even like me anymore."
Other major champions to advance in singles on a cool, sunny day included three-time Olympian Lleyton Hewitt, top-seeded Victoria Azarenka, Kim Clijsters, Petra Kvitova, Ana Ivanovic and three-time Wimbledon runner-up Andy Roddick.
Leander Paes of India became the first tennis player to compete in six Olympics and teamed with Vishnu Vardhan for a doubles victory.
Federer and Swiss teammate Stanislas Wawrinka, who won the gold in doubles in 2008, began their bid for a repeat by rallying past Kei Nishikori and Go Soeda of Japan, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4. The match ended on the verge of nightfall, with Federer serving out the final game.
"It was getting really dark," Federer said. "We could be sitting here at 5-all and coming back Tuesday to finish."
The U.S. team went 6-0, with John Isner and Varvara Lepchenko also advancing. Isner, seeded 10th, hit 15 aces and reached the third round by beating Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 7-6 (1), 6-2. Lepchenko completed a rain-interrupted, two-day, first-round win over Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-2.
Roddick’s victory set up the first showdown of the tournament. As a price for being unseeded, he’ll face 2011 Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic on Tuesday.
"That’s my own fault," Roddick said. "It’s tough. That’s obviously not an ideal situation, but I’m sure he’s not thrilled about it either."
Venus Williams, also unseeded, drew a tough first-round foe in Errani, who has won four titles this year and is ranked a career-high No. 9. Williams served well, charged the net aggressively and appeared at ease on the Wimbledon grass, where she has won five of her seven Grand Slam titles.
Afterward, Williams challenged the Olympic record for references to herself in the third person.
"Today definitely seemed a lot more like classic Venus," she said. "I know she’s in here, but she has a couple of things she’s dealing with, so she does the best she can."
Despite being diagnosed last year with an autoimmune disease that can cause fatigue, Williams began 2012 determined to make the Olympic team. She won the gold in singles at the 2000 Games and teamed with Serena to take the gold in doubles in 2000 and 2008.
Because her opening match was delayed a day by rain, Venus will have to play six consecutive days if she reaches Saturday’s final.
"I definitely expect everything to be tough on me almost nowadays," she said.
Over on Court 1, Serena’s serve lacked its usual sizzle, and she was even broken once, but she still eliminated Radwanska with little drama. She defeated Radwanska’s sister, Agnieszka, in the Wimbledon final this month.
Serena will next play No. 13-seeded Vera Zvonareva of Russia. Williams won when they met for the 2010 Wimbledon title.
"It’s not an easy tournament, playing someone tough so soon," Williams said.