First gold for US women since 1996

11:18 PM, Jul 31, 2012   |    comments
Gabby Douglas (front) and other members of the US women's gymnastics team at Tuesday's Olympic team final in London (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)
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LONDON - The Fantastic Five have upstaged the Magnificent Seven.

With consistent and strong overall performances, the American women ran away with the gold medal in team gymnastics Tuesday at the London Olympics.

It was the USA's first team gold since the group known as the Magnificent Seven won in Atlanta in 1996, and the first since the teams were cut to five members.

They opened a lead over Russia in the first rotation, the vault, and never relinquished it. The clincher came on the final floor exercise when Aly Raisman, the improbable star in qualifying, nailed her routine and then broke down in celebratory tears.

The Americans entered these Olympics as gold medal favorites. They established their dominance last year at worlds by winning the title by a whopping four points over Russia. China, which won the gold at the 2008 Games, was third followed by Romania.

Even so, as the team's recent history shows, the top spot on the podium wasn't a given. The U.S. won worlds in 2003 and 2007 before earning team silver at the Olympics one year later. In both Athens and Beijing, the Americans had several last-minute injuries.

The Americans' toughest all-around competition was expected to come from a pair of Russian world champions, Victoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina, who is coming back from a knee injury suffered last year.

Still entering the competition Bela Karolyi said no other team compared to the U.S. "This is the deepest team in the world," he said.

It also may be a more consistent team, according to Karolyi, the celebrated coach of that 1996 team and the husband of current national team coordinator Marta Karolyi.

"I think this is a more even team with their performances," Bela Karolyi said before the tumult of Sunday night "The 1996 team had ups and downs."

Wieber's strength has always been her steely focus, her power and the level of difficulty of her routines. But she never had to come back from such an emotional setback. Wieber finished fourth during qualifying missing a shot individual Olympic gold because international rules allow only two competitors per country in the finals.

How would Wieber respond? Would she be able to pick herself up from the painful setback of her career? In her first event on Tuesday, Wieber answered that question. As she landed her vault, a huge smile spread across her face. Wieber Fever had begun.

For the last 16 years, the "Magnificent Seven" has been the measuring stick. Though the U.S. has had two Olympic gold medalists in the interim, Carly Patterson in 2004 and Nastia Liukin in 2008, the shine of those medals was dimmed a bit without the ultimate team honor. With the rosters now trimmed to five, it was up to Wieber, Raisman, Douglas, Maroney and Ross to work some magnificence of their own.

Raisman, like the rest of her teammates, has watched a video of the U.S.'s 1996 Olympic gold medal performance countless of times. Their unity is what stands out to her the most. "It was so magical watching them compete," Raisman said.

On Tuesday, the 2012 Olympic gold medalists made magic of their own.

(USA Today)

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