From news services For a year, the American men quietly took the criticism. They weren’t any good. They’d be lucky to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. They were little better than backups to those guys who won the silver medal in Athens. How’s this for an answer: A fourth-place finish at the World Gymnastics Championships that could have been even better on Thursday in Stuttgart, Germany. If not for two falls off the high bar, the U.S. men would have been the bronze medalists. Not bad for backups. “Obviously, we showed today we have the talent,” captain David Durante said. “We’re definitely not backups. We’re definitely guys who can step out on the floor with anybody in the world. And 11 months from now, we’re going to be a team that’s going to scare other teams.” Although the Americans finished almost 10 points behind the Chinese, nobody else got close to the defending world champions. China breezed to its third straight title – and seventh in the last eight world championships – by an almost five-point margin over Japan. But with 272.275 points, the United States was only 1.25 points behind Germany. Memorabilia A rare Honus Wagner baseball card has been sold for a record $2.8 million, just over six months after it was bought for a then-record $2.35 million. Referred to as the “Mona Lisa” of baseball cards, the almost mint-condition collectible – released in 1909 by the American Tobacco Company – was sold by Brian Seigel of Las Vegas to an unidentified Southern California collector in February. SCP Auctions was a minority owner, but David Kohler, the company’s president and CEO, said that’s no longer the case. Kohler said the new owner wishes to remain a private collector for now, but might identify himself at a later date. The sale was completed last week. Basketball Kobe Bryant received a tribal headband from a Taiwanese teenager in Taipei who benefited from the NBA star’s donation of a basketball court to his mountain village. Xiao Fen told Bryant that since the Lakers guard donated the court during his first visit to Taiwan last year, his play had improved significantly. “I was only averaging about five points a game before the court was built,” the junior high student. “But now I’m scoring in double digits.” Bryant donned the headband, a gift emblematic of leadership in the tribe, one of 13 recognized aboriginal groups in Taiwan. Bryant watched a film about the court, constructed in an abandoned building. ETC.: Not long after inducting its newest class, the Basketball Hall of Fame will take a road trip. The “Hoop Hall Experience” kicks off a 30-city tour Nov. 2 in Knoxville, Tenn. and continues through December 2008, giving fans an opportunity to view basketball history without traveling to the game’s birthplace in Springfield, Mass.The tour, called HHX, was to be announced this morning at the Hall of Fame, with the induction ceremony set for later in the day. Horse racing The much-delayed return of Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches has one more week to go. As expected, the first filly in 102 years to capture the Belmont won’t run in Saturday’s Ruffian Handicap at Belmont Park but is set for the Gazelle Stakes a week later. The 3-year-old filly, who is 5-0 in 2007, spiked a fever and missed a workout Aug. 27, then put in a five-furlong workout last Sunday at Saratoga Race Course. Rags to Riches was back at Belmont on Wednesday. “The Gazelle makes more sense because it gives her another week of work,” trainer Todd Pletcher said in a story posted on the Web site of Bloodhorse.com. “It really wasn’t a hard decision, and I think it is fine. It was nice to have another option, and now it gives us six weeks to the Breeders’ Cup, which works.” Soccer Fenerbahce’s Edu Dracena and Sporting Lisbon’s Gladstone will replace injured defenders Alex and Alex Silva for Brazil’s upcoming exhibition games against the U.S. and Mexico. Olympics China marked the start of the one-year countdown to the Beijing Paralympics with a pledge to make the city “barrier-free.” Beijing urban planning official Cao Yuejin said a drive to remove obstacles for disabled people had been stepped up ahead of the games, which follow the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Cycling Spanish rider Oscar Freire won the sixth stage of the Vuelta in a sprint finish in Logrono, and Vladimir Efimkin retained the overall lead. Freire finished the flat 114.5-mile leg from Reinosa to Logrono in northern Spain in 4 hours, 24 minutes, 10 seconds. The Rabobank rider edged Spain’s Koldo Fernandez of the Euskaltel team and Italy’s Angelo Furlan of Credit Agricole, both clocked with the same time. Jurisprudence An appeals court in Denver revived a lawsuit by two women who claim they were gang-raped at a University of Colorado football recruiting party, ruling there is evidence the alleged assaults were caused by the school’s failure to adequately supervise players. The ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which sends the case back to the trial court, said there is evidence the university had an official policy of showing high school recruits a “good time” and that it showed a “deliberate indifference” to any known sexual harassment. In a written statement, CU said: “The university does not have a policy that would place any of its female students at risk of assault; in fact, it has stringent policies prohibiting sexual harassment and sexual assault.” The women said they were raped at an off-campus party for football players and recruits in 2001. No one was criminally charged with sexual assault, but the lawsuit sparked a scandal over CU’s football recruiting practices that led to broad reforms and a shake-up of the university’s top leaders. ETC.: Duquesne forward Stuard Baldonado, suspended from school Wednesday after being charged with drug violations, was arrested near the campus again hours later that day on a misdemeanor drug charge. Baldonado, one of five players shot on campus a year ago this month, was initially arrested Friday and charged with criminal conspiracy involving the manufacture, delivery or possession of a controlled substance. He was indefinitely suspended from the university and the basketball team on Wednesday after school officials reviewed the situation. … A prostitute who was with former Villanova basketball star Howard Porter on the night he was beaten aided and abetted his killing, according to a criminal complaint released in Minneapolis. Porter, 58, died May 26, a week after he was found unconscious in a Minneapolis alley. Tonya Evette Johnson, 33, is charged with second-degree murder for her role in Porter’s death. She told authorities that she was walking near her St. Paul apartment when she approached Porter for a “date.” Johnson said she brought Porter to her apartment to exchange sex for money and crack cocaine when four masked men rushed in and beat him, according to the complaint. Johnson told police she knew one of the men was Rashad Arthur Raleigh, 29, who has been charged with second- degree murder. Television The Big Ten Network reached an agreement with satellite TV provider Dish Network, expanding the reach of the new channel. The number of households with the network nationwide will initially increase from about 17 million to 28.5 million. In the eight states with Big Ten schools, the number will increase from 3.5 to 6.2 million. Quotable Former welterweight champion Shane Mosley, who will fight Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto where he is loved in New York: “I love Puerto Rico and I love Puerto Ricans. But on the night of Nov. 10, I have to do what I have to do, and I will be victorious. Nothing will keep me from my goal of being the best welterweight out there for this decade.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!