LONDON - Women. Can't live with 'em, wouldn't have a prayer in the medal race without 'em.
Through Wednesday, the USA had won 34 gold medals at the Olympics. The women accounted for 23 of them. Take away swimming, and the American men had three. They went medal-less in boxing (an historical first) and put nobody in the men's 400-meter final (ditto).
But the women have dominated, from the halls of gymnastics to the shores of beach volleyball. Because Wednesday figured to be another highlight reel, a diary seemed in order. A day in the life of American Olympic women on a roll.
1:45 p.m.: With the men all gone, any glory in the boxing venue will have to come from the ladies. Marlen Esparza enters the arena with an American flag around her head, loses and ends up weeping into the same flag.
She'll get the bronze, but that won't console her.
"The worst part about it is you imagine in your mind the other side," she says through tears. "To watch somebody right in front of me ...have what I've worked my whole life for is horrible."
2:50 p.m.: Finally, an American boxer who puts a true pounding on someone. Her name is Claressa Shields, and she might be the most fun U.S. Olympian to watch in this sport since Sugar Ray Leonard.
"That's the performance I wanted everybody to see," she says, after a rout sends her into Thursday's gold medal bout. Her strategy this day against an immobile opponent from Kazakhstan is delightfully simple. "If a girl's going to stand right in front of me, why not hit her?"
She has no direct family here to watch her, but she is the last American standing in boxing and attacks with a fury. "I feel like Rocky Balboa," she says.
She has seen every Rocky movie, liking the one with Mr. T the best.
4:30 p.m.: News conference for the U.S. soccer women, who face Japan in Thursday's gold medal game.
The Americans have become masters of the comeback, rallying against France and three times against Canada.
"I think we exemplify a lot of what the American people are going through right now with the economy and all the hardships," Abby Wambach says. "The fact that we're willing to fight no matter what is thrown at us, that no matter how many times we fall down we're all still willing to get up, even in the face of failure."
6:10 p.m.: Clarissa Chun wins bronze, giving the USA its first wrestling medal of these Games.
8:45 p.m.: Russia's Natalya Antyukh barely beats American Lashinda Demus to the line for the gold in the 400-meter hurdles, then drops to her knees in gratitude.
"I wanted the gold medal," Demus says. "I wanted it so bad, I can't explain how bad. I started crying because I knew how bad I wanted it."
9 p.m.: The two teams for the women's beach volleyball final take the sand. The U.S. team is in red. The other U.S. team is in white. It is an all-Yankee final, and American bikinis have taken over the land next to 10 Downing Street. Meanwhile, the Horse Guards Parade dancers perform.
9:01 p.m.:Allyson Felix, who finished second in two consecutive Olympics, finally gets her gold in the 200 meters, while 32-year-old teammate Carmelita Jeter finishes third and becomes the third-oldest woman to medal in the event. For both, the value of patience.
"It's been a journey," Felix says, "but you can't lose sight of your dream."
9:30 p.m.:Brittney Reese and Janay DeLoach go 1-3 in the long jump.
9:37 p.m.: That's the time on nearby Big Ben when April Ross' serve goes long, and Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh win their third beach volleyball gold, in probably their last appearance together.
9:42 p.m.: Walsh celebrates with her two little boys in her arms, then hands one to May-Treanor. Guaranteed, an image destined to live in London Olympics recap heaven.
10:14 p.m.: One last hug on the medal stand. "This is what we dreamed," May-Treanor says to Walsh, "and we lived it."
10:30 p.m.: Ross describes all the news media that had been waiting for partner Jennifer Kessy and her when they arrived. "We thought the cameras were for us," she says. "Then someone said, 'Prince Harry is behind you.' "
Of the 11 American medals Wednesday, nine come from women. The water polo and soccer teams go for gold Thursday, and the basketball team seeks to continue its stampede through the bracket.
They are women, hear them roar.