Team USA's golden girl Gabby Douglas has one more shiny necklace to add to her collection after handily winning today's Women's Gymnastics individual all-around competition. From her near 16 point vault leading off today's competition, no other gymnast was able to do much but chase her through the next three rotations and follow behind as she climbed to the queen of the mountain position on the podium. Even more significant for the United States, Douglas made history by being the first American to earn gold medals as part of both the team competition and in the individual all-around.Olympics 2012 Giveaway: Enter to Win a Limited Edition Olympics Themed iPhone Case >>>
Douglas' teammate Aly Raisman, however, wasn't so fortunate. After edging out both Douglas and media favorite Jordyn Wieber to gain Team USA's highest score in the preliminaries, Raisman had to be feeling the burden to prove that her placement in the all-around was justified. As Wieber watched stoically, thin-lipped, from the stands, Raisman knocked down the effectiveness of some strong events with some major mistakes in others. Those mistakes and some stiff competition by the Russian duo Komova and Mustafina were enough to take her out of sure-thing range for any of the three medals. But it came oh-so-close...Rotation 1: Vaulting to the Top of the Leader Board
In order to ratchet up the possibility of a nail-biting final rotation, Olympic officials this year have made the decision to place all of the top scorers from the qualifiers into a single group. Today, this proved quite effective indeed when it pitted Team USA against Team Russia in a battle of wills and wits not seen since the political jockeying of the Cold War. Additionally, with the vault traditionally garnering some of the highest scores of all the apparatuses, this start would all but guarantee that the gymnasts of this group would end the first rotation at the top of the scoreboard, making the competition theirs to lose.
Douglas leads off the group with a pitch perfect aerial execution and a landing that couldn't have been stuck any harder if her feet and the mat were magnets. Raisman follows suit in much the same fashion, garnering a 15.9 against Douglas' slightly higher 15.966. Komova and Mustafina pull a 15.466 and a 15.233, respectively, collecting decent but not terribly impressive numbers to place them in third and fourth place, trailing Douglas and Raisman at the end of the rotation.
Rotation 2: So That's Why They Call Her the Flying Squirrel
Next up, the group faces the uneven bars. Raisman starts in this event. Historically, this has been one of her weakest events and it is one that she was selected to sit out in the team competition on Tuesday for that reason. Raisman's routine has no major upsets, but she does receive deductions for some issues where her form breaks and her legs spread going into a couple of handstand maneuvers. As she sees her 14.333 flash above her, you can see her face fall with a little bit of disappointment. She is not happy with that score, but also must take some relief that her strongest events are still to come.
Komova follows Raisman with a routine that makes her body look like a human sail. She soars around and above the top bar with more lightness than I've ever seen in the routine, missing nothing, and landing firm for a 15.966. Adding to the pressure on Douglas, Mustafina trumps Komova and scores one of the only scores in the 16s for the day.
Gabby Douglas is up to the task. With a handful of those daredevil release moves that launch her well into nosebleed territory and have earned her the nickname "Flying Squirrel," Douglas is able to impress the judges and crowd alike. A huge windup on her dismount and only the slightest stutter in her landing garners her a 15.733, and she maintains her lead over Komova by 0.267 points. Raisman, with her lower score, drops to fourth.Rotation 3: The Imbalance Beam
Throughout each day of competition in this year's Games, the balance beam has been the millstone around the necks of many a top gymnast, and the curse of that tan treachery continued today.
Komova leads off the rotation, scoring a relief-inducing 15.441. Although she almost slips twice and comes up short on her landing, she manages to hold on and pull a score higher than that of any gymnast in the prelims.
Mustafina is next. She starts out with confidence despite problems with the apparatus in both prelims and team competition, but during an Arabian flip that she seems initially to have landed, she suddenly loses her balance and wobbles to the mat. She is able to finish the routine, but earns only a disappointing 13.633 for her efforts.
The seemingly unstoppable Douglas does it again with a 15.5 point routine that looked a lot like this:
Performing last, Raisman knew she needed to show why the beam is one of her best events in order to make up for the deficit she suffered on the bars. Her routine starts out rocky steady. Her flips, turns and walkovers are all landed with perfect precision.
But then this happens:
When Raisman suddenly suffers this massive loss of balance, she plants her hand on the beam to save herself from a fall. Unfortunately, she knows that the deduction will critically injure her score, and the rest of the routine suffers from that knowledge. Although she still bests Mustafina's score, her 14.2 isn't anything like what she wanted here.
Rotation 4: It's a Tie! Or Not.
At this point, there are two battles left to be waged on the floor exercise. Douglas and Komova have locked in gold and silver, but who will take which depends on Komova's ability to nail her routine. The battle for the bronze will be between the beam-beleaguered Raisman and Mustafina. Mustafina is up first. Her routine is graceful, but not technically as proficient as Douglas and Raisman's programs. She earns a respectable, but not impressive, 14.600.
Douglas reprises her peppy floor routine to music that sounds hilariously straight out of the Star Wars
Creature Cantina scene. The audience claps along like good little droids, and roars when Douglas sticks her last landing with that trademark thousand-watt smile. She knows she's probably got this one in the bag. With a posted score of 15.033, Komova will need a huge 15.359 to steal her gold.
Factoring Mustafina's score, Raisman aims for a 15.134 to lock the bronze, but instead scores a 15.133, which will create a tie between the two women. Komova comes up short of her aims as well, so her 15.100 will earn her silver.
Will there be two bronze medals then? Has Aly Raisman's incredibly redemptive floor routine just placed her on the podium once again? Well, as it turns out, no. In the case of a tie in Olympic gymnastics, each tying gymnast's lowest apparatus score is dropped and the total for the remaining three determines the winner. In this case, for both gymnasts this score was the disastrous balance beam. Unfortunately, this left Raisman's final three scores just behind Mustafina's, left her off the podium and left my big toe stubbed when I inadvertently kicked my desk in frustration.
In the end, though, Douglas earned the gold for which she was favored, and Raisman can take heart that being the fourth best gymnast in the world is a whole lot more impressive than a stubbed toe earned blogging about it. Go Team USA!
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