The U.S. won its first Olympic women’s gymnastics team gold medal in 16 years at the London Games, never trailing after McKayla Maroney vaulted it into a big lead.
The U.S. team scored 183.596 points, winning three of the four parts of yesterday’s final at the North Greenwich Arena to finish ahead of silver-medal winner Russia and Romania. China was fourth and host nation Britain finished sixth with 170.495.
“This is my ultimate goal, to be part of this team and win that gold medal,” said 17-year-old Jordyn Wieber, who told reporters she had a leg injury in the final. “Once I get on the competition floor, the pain just goes away.”
It was the first gold for the Americans in the team event since the 1996 Atlanta Games, and the eighth in Olympic history. The U.S. team won silver in Beijing in 2008 and Athens in 2004. The Americans were third in the uneven bars yesterday, taking the vault, the beam and the floor competitions.
The team, which is captained by 18-year-old Aly Raisman, is composed of Wieber; Maroney, 16; Gabby Douglas, 16; and Kyla Ross, 15.
Raisman and Douglas may add to the U.S. medal tally when they compete in tomorrow’s individual all-around final.
The U.S., which was paired with Russia throughout the final, took an early lead with no one surpassing Maroney’s score of 16.233 on the vault. The Californian left the apparatus by skipping over to her teammates after her routine gave the U.S. a lead that it never relinquished.
Russia tracked the gold medal winners until the floor exercise, the last event. The U.S. women watched Anastasia Grishina score 12.466 before Kseniia Afanaseva landed on her knees in her final maneuver, which placed Russia sixth in the discipline. Afanaseva, 20, had to be consoled as she left the floor.
“I’m crying first from happiness, then from disappointment,” Russia’s Aliya Mustafina said in a press conference. “It was difficult to beat the Americans with the scores we had. I feel that the USA have just proved that they are better than us as a team in general.”
Raisman performed the final floor exercise of the gold medal-winning performance. As she left the floor after scoring a competition-high 15.300, she was mobbed by her teammates and the crowd shouted “U-S-A.”
“This is the result of very hard work through many years,” U.S. coach Martha Karolyi said. “It’s a fantastic achievement but at the same time we don’t want to get our noses up.”
Russians in the audience chanted as their compatriots were given their silver medals. Wieber was the first on the podium for the U.S. and the quintet bit their medals as they posed for the crowd.
“They’re so hungry for it, that’s the difference,” said British gymnast Rebecca Tunney. “We’ve been lucky enough to train with them for a week -- it was so inspiring.”
The British gymnasts were greeted with cheers as they completed dismounts. Those cries were enough to distract the Chinese athletes during their beam routine, according to 20- year-old Sui Lu.
“On the beam we felt a little nervous,” Sui said. “I think the audience was very enthusiastic and we were affected by this. We really love the cheering but we are sometimes distracted by the noise. This is our own fault.”
Wieber, the reigning women’s all-around world champion, was knocked out of the Olympic all-around event in qualifying. Karolyi praised the gymnast’s performance in the team event.
“She has a very strong character, she’s a fighter,” the coach said. “She wanted to prove herself.”
The U.S. women’s team won the bronze medal when London last hosted the games in 1948.
The U.S. men finished fifth in the team event two days ago after John Orozco failed to land his vault. The Bronx-born gymnast broke down in tears after getting the day’s third-lowest score on the apparatus.
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