Beautiful performances in the floor exercises by Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Weiber and Aly Raisman doused any hope Russia had of executing a comeback victory.
Nicknamed the “Fab Five,” Team USA began the competition proving their collective brilliance with a dominant performance on the vault. Wieber and Douglas each topped 15.9 before vaulting specialist McKayla Maroney fashioned a spectacular 16.233, giving the U.S. a team score of 48.132.
By comparison, in Sunday’s qualification round, no vaulter outside of the U.S. team scored higher than a 15.6. Eventual silver medalists Russia immediately followed the U.S. on the vault and posted a score of 46.366, the second-best vault score of the competition.
However, that left them 1.7-plus points behind the Americans after one of the four rotations.
It was a margin the U.S. would not allow Russia to overcome.
Remember Keri Strug’s courageous vault off one leg in 1996? Well, that was the last time the U.S. woman’s team won gold. And this was a dominating performance, winning by a crushing 5.66points, the equivalent to a blowout in other sports.
Given the legacy of Strug’s iconic moment, it’s appropriate the 2012 version’s defining moment came on the same apparatus. Team USA started strongly and finished strongly, too, earning 183.596 points to Russia’s 178.530. Romania took the bronze at 176.414, with 2008 gold medalists China fourth.
The U.S. followed up their vault performance with a solid showing on the uneven bars. Wieber scored a mistake-free 14.666, followed by Kyla Ross’s 14.933. Douglas’s 15.200 wasn’t as high as she’d hoped, but gave the U.S. an acceptable score of 44.799.
The Russians’ outstanding 46.166 on the uneven bars cut the U.S. lead to .4 points, 92.931 to 92.532. But the U.S. responded with a first-place performance on the balance beam, Ross scoring a 15.133, Douglas a 15.233, and Aly Raisman a 14.933.
Since the “Magnificent Seven” in 1996, the U.S hadn’t quite gotten over the team finals hump, taking bronze in Sydney in 2000 and silver in Athens and Beijing. But the Americans entered Tuesday’s finals favorites and left as gold medalists.