U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team Wins Gold Medal; First In 16 Years

Jul 31, 2012
Originally published on July 31, 2012 5:35 pm

The U.S. women's gymnastics team has won the team gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics, handily beating Russia, which took silver, and Romania, which took bronze. China finished fourth.

Update at 2:25 p.m. EDT: The U.S. women led off with their strength — the vault. The apparatus gives them an advantage, and not only because Maroney is the world champion and gold-medal favorite in the event.

The AP describes why:

"All of the Americans do Amanars, one of the toughest vaults in the world — a roundoff onto the takeoff board, back handspring onto the table and 2.5 twisting somersaults before landing. It's got a start value — the measure of difficulty — of 6.5, a whopping 0.7 above the vault most other gymnasts do, and they ripped off one massive one after another."

Their performances held up throughout Tuesday's final, with Douglas anchoring the team in all four events.

The Americans won a team gold for the first time since 1996. And they fulfilled the promise seen in them by someone who knows about gold-medal-caliber teams: Bela Karolyi, who coached the 1996 squad.

Karolyi says the Americans have "the deepest team in the world," according to The Detroit Free Press. "I think this is a more even team with their performances," he added. "The 1996 team had ups and downs."

Update at 1:55 p.m. EDT: The American women's performance is winning many fans on Twitter — among them is Dominique Moceanu, a member of the Atlanta 1996 team.

In a tweet naming Wieber and the other team members, Moceanu wrote, "Passing the torch to 2012 Team USA Women!"

The Olympic gold medal is the second in the history of U.S. women's gymnastics.

The U.S. team finished with a strong floor round, but they were in control for much of Tuesday's final. Their final score was 183.596. Russia was a distant second, at 178.530, with Romania trailing at 176.414.

The rest of the final eight: China, Canada, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan, which came in last with a score of 166.646.

Update at 5:43 p.m. EDT: The American team was made up of Gabby Douglas of Virginia Beach, Va.; McKayla Maroney of Long Beach, Calif.; Aly Raisman of Needham, Mass.; Kyla Ross of Aliso Viejo, Calif.; and Jordyn Wieber of DeWitt, Mich.

Here is the lineup they used:

Vault: Wieber, Douglas, Maroney
Uneven bars: Wieber, Ross, Douglas
Balance beam: Ross, Douglas, Raisman
Floor exercise: Douglas, Wieber, Raisman

Note we've rewritten the top of this post to reflect the news.

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We're moving on now to the Olympics and a big moment today for American women's gymnastics. The so-called fab five has won America's first gold medal in team gymnastics in 16 years. Russia finished a distant second and Romania took the bronze medal. NPR's Tom Goldman was there and he joins us now from London. And, Tom, the U.S. won by more than five points. How did they do it?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Strong performances from all five athletes throughout the competition: Jordan Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross, McKayla Maroney. And they had a great start. Teams compete in four events. The first one for the U.S. was the vault, and the Americans in the vernacular stuck each one, in particular Maroney. Her vault was fantastic, and it gave the U.S. that initial emotional boost.

CORNISH: And there's a lot of focus on American Jordan Wieber going in today's finals. She's the reigning world champion in the individual all-around event. But earlier this week, she didn't make the finals in that event. Remind us why.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, she actually finished fourth among all gymnasts in the preliminaries, and that easily is good enough to qualify. But the U.S is so strong, she finished third among the Americans, and the rule says only two athletes from each country qualifies for - qualify for the finals of the individual all-around. And even Wieber said today that the rule stinks. She was distraught after that happened. And the question going in to today, would Wieber be able to overcome that disappointment and perform well in the team final?

CORNISH: So how'd she do?

GOLDMAN: She did great. She was the first American to perform in the vault, the U.S. first event. She did a great job. She also did well on the uneven bars and finished with a wonderful performance in the floor exercise. She said afterwards that after she failed to qualify for the individual all-around, she went in to a personal bubble in order to turn her attitude around. She obviously did that and definitely helped her team win today.

CORNISH: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman speaking to us from London. Thanks so much, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.