LONDON -- The US women’s gymnastics team won its first gold medal at an overseas Games on Tuesday, destroying the Russians by more than 5 points (183.596-178.530) as the Chinese defending champions finished fourth behind Romania. Needham native Aly Raisman capped off the triumph with a thunderous floor routine as the Americans won the title for the first time since the Magnificent 7 did it in Atlanta in 1996.
The Americans started off soaring in vault, their best event, led off by world champion Jordyn Wieber, who evidently had shaken off the disappointment of missing the all-around final, where she was favored for gold. Wieber stuck her landing and after Gabby Douglas did the same, McKayla Maroney, the global titlist on the apparatus, capped things off with a monster Amanar vault that earned her a 16.233 score.
That gave the US a comfortable cushion of 1.733 points over China heading into the uneven bars, its weakest event and where slippage was overall expected. It was a long wait for the Americans, who’d quickly completed their work on the vaulting strip and had to wait more than 40 minutes for the Russians to finish on bars before their moment came.
When it did, the US performed solidly with Wieber posting a 14.666, Kyla Ross 14.933 and Douglas 15.200. That kept the Americans ahead of the Russians but the gap had been narrowed to .399 going into beam, which figured to be the pivotal event where Raisman, who’d topped the US table in qualifying (second overall), was scheduled to make her first appearance.
After Ross (15.133), in her final event of the Games, and Douglas (15.233) both survived slight wobbles, up came Raisman, who had a lengthy wait for Douglas’s score to be posted. Though the team captain has a couple of unsteady moments of her own, she earned a 14.933 mark. That increased the US lead to nearly 1.3 points over the Russians, who struggled with shaky performances from former world champion Aliya Mustafina (14.533) and Victoria Komova (15.033). The Chinese, who won gold in 2008, were out of contention after coming to grief on beam.
So they went to the floor, where the Americans saw their golden chances vanish in Beijing and where Wieber and Douglas both stepped out of bounds in qualifying. If they reined it in this time, Raisman, the world bronze medalist in the event, was expected to cap things off.