They were the favorites going in, but anything can happen in the Olympic Games. Despite the added pressure (and curse?) that comes from being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, last night the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team leaped their way above the competition to nab the first team Gold Medal since the Magnificent Seven team of 1996.
Jordyn Wieber was able to shake off any disappointment she may have felt after being left out of the all-around race and started the team off on a high note with the very first vault in the first rotation. She beamed from ear to ear as she landed an impressive score of 15.933. Gabby Douglas, the only member of the team to compete in every event last night, received a 15.966 and McKayla Maroney, the world champion on the vault, had a near-perfect 16.233 (out of 16.5). After the first rotation the U.S. team was more than 1.5 points above the Russians, who would be their competition the whole night long.
The U.S. headed to the bars next, which is their weakest event. Kyla Ross turned in a respectable 14.933, Wieber received a 14.66 and Douglas led the team with a 15.2. Though all fine scores, having just one gymnast score above 15 was a bit of a detriment. Viktoria Komova earned a 15.766 and Aliya Mustafina enjoyed a score of 15.7. Boom, just like that the Russians were back in the race.
Heading to the balance beam, which has to be the most nerve-wracking event, the U.S. was more than solid and regained the lead they had enjoyed after the vault. Ross received a score of 14.933. Aly Raisman competed for the first time and earned a 14.933 and Douglas received a 15.233. All very respectable scores, but certainly not unbeatable.
Lucky for the U.S., the beam is where things start to fall apart for the Russians. We only saw two of the athletes perform, but it began with Mustafina pulling in a jittery performance with a number of balance checks. After her dismount she stormed past her coach and sulked on the bench as she awaited her 14.533 score. Komova did a better job with a 15.033, but the Russians could feel the competition slipping away.
For some reason unbeknownst to me, even though the U.S. went first on every other event, the Russians went first on the last apparatus of the night: the floor. Mustafina started off and had a few bobbles, earning her a 14.8. Then, we got our first glimpse of Anastasia Grishina. Apparently she was on bars but we didn’t see that performance.
On the floor, Grishina was a disaster of – shall we say – Olympic proportions. First she screwed up the landing on a tumbling pass, and then she fumbled another tumbling pass to the point where she entirely skipped the second half. I have never seen anyone completely miss an entire half of a tumbling pass before, so it was clear this was going to be ugly. When she finished, I wasn’t even sure if Grishina knew quite what had happened, but her teammates sure did. With a 12.466 Grishina’s score was the second worst overall for the whole night (Someone from Great Britain managed to get a 11.833 on beam).
Stepping onto the floor, the U.S. team needed to average barely over 13 per athlete to win the gold – which is really a piece of cake for these gals. Wieber got a 15.0 and then Douglas scored a 15.066. Raisman could do the routine in her sleep and the team would’ve still won the gold. Though she took out a tumbling pass that had been giving her trouble, she easily scored a 15.3. Her face crumpled in tears of joy as she finished her last tumbling pass and the Gold was sealed.
The Gymnastics results were released much earlier in the day yesterday, but I’m glad I avoided social media as much as possible so that I could watch the event without any knowledge of the outcome. As soon as Grishina blew it hardcore on the floor I knew that the U.S. had it in the bag; but again, you still never know for sure. When Raisman finished her routine and could barely keep in the tears, I must admit it was a little dusty in my house because my eyes were cloudy as well. The U.S. team linked hands and waited for their final score, but it was more than obvious that a trip to the top of the podium was in there future.
Aside from Russia, no one else was anywhere near the Americans. China had some great bar routines, but was weaker on the other events. As always, NBC decided to only show the U.S., Russians (not all routines) and a smattering of Chinese and Romanian gymnasts. We did not see one routine from gymnasts from Canada, Italy, Japan or even the host country of Great Britain. Regardless, the stars of the night were truly the U.S Gymnasts, who easily lived up to the hype. They finished with a score of 183.596, more than five points above second place Russians with 178.530 and over seven points more than Romania in third with 176.414.
No matter what happens in the individual all-around competition on Thursday, each member of the U.S. Gymnastics Team (Wieber included) will go home from the London Games with a Gold Medal.