Dominant USA surge to women’s team gold in gymnastics

Douglas performs on the balance beam.

LONDON: The United States won the Olympic women’s team gymnastics final Tuesday to claim their first gold medal in the event since the ‘Magnificent Seven’ triumphed at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Russia, runners-up to the USA at last year’s World Championships, finished second, with European champions Romania pipping 2008 Olympic champions China to the bronze medal.

The United States had dominated in qualifying Sunday, but unlike their male counterparts, who finished a disappointing fifth in Monday’s men’s final, they reproduced the same high performance level when it mattered.

Their winning score of 183.596 points was even more handsome than their qualifying tally and gave them a comfortable advantage of 5.066 points over the Russians, some of whom were reduced to tears.

Victory was particularly sweet for Jordyn Wieber, who lost out on a place in the individual all-around final to teammate Alexandra Raisman, but played a key role in Tuesday’s triumph.

Great Britain were unable to repeat the success the bronze medal-winning men’s team enjoyed Monday and finished in sixth place behind Canada, with Italy seventh and Japan last.

The USA team had set the tone in both podium training and qualifying with assured performances on the vault and once again they asserted their authority with three superb Amanar vaults in the first rotation.

Two days on from her individual qualifying heartache, Wieber led the way with a vault that earned her a score of 15.933, before Gabrielle Douglas (15.966) and McKayla Maroney (16.233) followed suit to give the USA an ideal start.

The Russians could not compete on the vault, with Maria Paseka almost stumbling off the mat with her attempted Amanar, and the USA led China by 1.733 points after the first rotation, with Russia third.

However, the Russians impressed on the bars – Viktoria Komova top-scoring with 15.766 – and the USA’s lead had been eroded to 0.399 points by the halfway stage.

The USA kept the pressure on with three solid beam routines and Russia’s Aliya Mustafina and Komova both committed errors during their displays to hand the Americans the initiative.

Further woe arrived on the floor for Russia when Anastasia Grishina failed to complete her second tumbling pass, before Kseniia Afanaseva fell badly on her knees.

It put the United States in a commanding position, and after Douglas and Wieber produced confident and fault-free floor routines, Raisman secured the gold with yet another nerveless display.

The win is only the second ever scored by America’s women in the team event following the famous victory of the 1996 squad known as the ‘Magnificent Seven’, when the injured Kerri Strug executed a perfect vault to clinch gold.

Romania’s bronze medal confirmed their recent strong form after their triumph at the European Championships in Brussels in May, and saw them finish on the podium at the Olympics for the 10th Games in succession.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 01, 2012, on page 14.




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