Not since the Magnificent Seven of Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Dominique Dawes, Kerri Strug, Jaycie Phelps, Amy Chow and Amanda Borden have U. S. gymnastics fans had so much to cheer about. Whether or not the Fantastic Five – or whatever they end up being known as – is better than the 1996 team is completely debatable. Regardless, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney did America proud, dominating the vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise Tuesday.
The efforts paid off in the form of a gold medal, the first in U. S. women’s team gymnastics since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. If you don’t remember, that was when Bela Karolyi carried Kerri Strug off the vault mat after she stuck her landing, which can honestly be deemed one of the most memorable moments in Olympic history. While it didn’t have quite as much dramatic flair, the event was definitely memorable.
The day started out on the vault for the United States, where Wieber, Douglas and Maroney had a great showing. The Americans took the lead after the first rotation, scoring a 48.774, and never lost sight of first place. China was in second with 46.399, with Russia nipping at their heels with 46.366 points.
Next up for the United States was the uneven bars, which is considered the team’s weakest event, as well as the event in which Russia excels. Ross, Wieber and Douglas represented the team in the event, which is considered to be one of Douglas’ strongest. She proved that, scoring 15.200 points. The U. S. team was helped out when the final Chinese gymnast came close to falling off the balance beam, which was only the beginning of China’s tumble down leaderboard.
Leading the Russians 92.931 to 92.532, the Americans took to the balance beam. Ross scored 15.133 in the event, while Douglas, who was in the zone throughout the entire competition, scored an impressive 15.233. Though she didn’t have a stellar dismount, Raisman finished with a 14.933 on the beam. The U. S. women ended up with the highest combined score of the day for any team on the beam, which only extended their lead (138.230 to 136.931) over the Russians going into the final event – the floor exercise.
The Russians competed first, with Aliva Mustafina completing a solid routine that scored her 14.800 points. Next up was Anastasia Grishina, who stumbled early on in her routine, which hurt the team’s chances at gold. Scoring 12.466, Kseniia Afanaseva tumbled big time at the end of her floor routine, as well. That pretty much solidified first place for the U. S. team, but the women didn’t slack off one bit during their routines.
Douglas went first and did exceptionally well, scoring 15.066. Wieber had a solid performance that resulted in a score of 15.000. At that point, Raisman only needed 11 points to secure first place. She did that and more, ending her routine with a 15.300. The Americans had a combined score of 183.596, beating Russia by 5.066 points and bringing the gold back home, a feat we have been waiting over 16 years for. Who knows if the U. S. women’s team will have as much success in Rio remains to be seen, but one thing’s for certain: the Sports Illustrated cover curse definitely doesn’t apply to gymnasts.