Gabby Douglas – America’s Latest Golden Girl – Wins Gymnastics All-Around

Gabby Douglas, 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist, Women's Gymnastics Individual All-Around
Gabby Douglas joined Mary Lou Retton, Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin in winning the Olympic Gold Medal in the Women’s Individual All-Around (photo belongs to BleacherReport.com)

Again, you’re already well-aware, but the United States was treated to a historic and enthralling performance in the women’s gymnastics Individual All-Around Final Thursday, when 16-year-old Gabby Douglas became only the fourth American woman to win an Olympic Gold Medal.

“The Flying Squirrel” flew into the hearts of fans worldwide when she posted a top overall score of 62.232, just over a quarter of a point more than silver medalist Viktoria Komova of Russia. Komova had posted the top overall qualifying score. Her countrywoman Aliya Mustafina – a global force on the uneven bars – took the bronze in a tiebreaker over American Aly Raisman, with both scoring 59.566.

Douglas joined Mary Lou Retton (1984, Los Angeles), Carly Patterson (2004, Athens) and Nastia Liukin (2008, Beijing) as the only four American women to win the Individual All-Around, and she is the first African-American woman to win gold.

Team USA Pair Qualifies for Individual All-Around, and the Amanar Vault Demonstrated

Vault

The Americans reiterated that they are the best in the world on the vault, nailing their Amanars for the top two overall scores. Douglas posted a meteoric 15.966 – nearly flawless – for the best performance, and Raisman continued her excellence as well, posting a 15.900. Komova, Romania’s Sandra Izbasa and Mustafina finished third through fifth on the apparatus, respectively.

Scores through Rotation 1:

USA Douglas – 15.966
USA Raisman – 15.900
RUS Komova –  15.466
RUS Mustafina – 15.233

Uneven Bars

It was Raisman’s next two rotations that doomed her to finish off the podium. She posted a 14.333 on the uneven bars, struggling and tying for ninth on the apparatus. The Russians are dominant on the bars, with Mustafina and Komova finishing 1-2 with a 16.100 and 15.966, respectively. Douglas is sensational on the bars as well, however, and posted a 15.733 to maintain the lead going into the balance beam.

Scores through Rotation 2:

USA Douglas – 31.699
RUS Komova – 31.432
RUS Mustafina – 31.333
USA Raisman – 30.233

Balance Beam

Raisman struggled again on the beam, which is normally one of her best events, posting a 14.200, good for tenth in the field but within striking distance on the final rotation for a medal. She used her hands to support herself when she leaned over on the beam. Douglas, however, was in good form and scored tops on the beam with a 15.500, putting the pressure on the Russians heading into the floor exercise. Komova held strong in second place with a 15.441, second also on the apparatus. Mustafina fell, scoring a 13.633. China’s Deng Linlin posted the third-best beam score but was not a threat for the medal standings, barring a collapse from one of the contenders on the floor.

Scores through Rotation 3:

USA Douglas – 47.199
RUS Komova – 46.873
RUS Mustafina – 44.966
USA Raisman – 44.433

Floor Exercise

Izbasa ended up having the best performance on the floor exercise, but her scores on beam and bars kept her out of the top four. Mustafina made things interesting, scoring only a 14.600 on the floor, good for sixth overall and leaving the door open for Raisman. The American performed very well, scoring a 15.133 (second-best) with the highest difficulty level among the contenders, but that was just enough for a tie with Mustafina for third. Douglas had a difficulty of 6.100, higher than either Russian, and scored a 15.033, the fourth-best score on the apparatus.

Komova was the final performer on the floor exercise, needing a 15.359 to tie Douglas. Indeed, she had the third-best floor routine, but it was not enough to launch her above Douglas. Her 15.100 was the silver lining on her evening.

Tiebreaker Explained

Mustafina and Raisman completed their all-arounds with the same score of 59.566. Many in the arena, including Raisman and Mustafina themselves, did not realize, then, how the latter was awarded the bronze medal and the former was left off the podium.

The International Gymnastics Federation rules do not provide for dual bronze medalists in the event of a tie. Instead, the tiebreaker totals the gymnasts’ top 3 scores across the four apparatus performances and compares them to determine who places first. Mustafina’s fantastic bar routine, with a 16.100 score, was the edge in the tiebreaker. Mustafina’s total of 45.933 from the bars, vault and floor were just 0.567 points better than Raisman’s 45.366 on the same three apparatuses, clinching her the bronze medal.

Raisman, who found out about the tiebreaker from the media, told the Associated Press she was not mad about the result. “I’m more sad than angry,” Raisman told the AP. “[Mustafina] didn’t do anything wrong. She had a good competition, too.”

Final Standings:

Gold Medal 1.  USAGabby Douglas – 62.232
Silver Medal 2.  RUS Viktoria Komova – 61.973
Bronze Medal 3. RUS Aliya Mustafina – 59.566
4. USA Aly Raisman – 59.566
5. ROU Sandra Izbasa
6. CHN Deng Linlin

Remaining Gymnastics Competition

Raisman will seek redemption on the balance beam, joining Douglas in the event final on the apparatus. Raisman and Jordyn Wieber will also compete in the floor exercise final, while Douglas will go for gold on the uneven bars, and McKayla Maroney will seek to again wow spectators on the vault.

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Golden Girls: USA outlasts Russia, Wins First Women’s Gymnastics Team Finals Since 1996

It all came crashing down to the floor. The hopes and dreams of a gold medal – the latest victory in a storied history of women’s gymnastics – were within reach…

But Russia can’t win them all.

The Fab Five of Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney were nearly flawless on each apparatus today as Team USA – dominant in the qualifying round – held off rotation-mate Russia for its first gold medal in the Women’s Gymnastics Team Final since 1996. The Russians went home with the silver medal, and Romania held off China for the bronze, though neither country threatened to finish any higher.

There was no need this time for a heroic, one-legged vault, a la Kerri Strug’s timeless feat from Atlanta – just consistency and, some thought, Wieber’s ability to overcome the disappointment of missing the all-around final due to a rule limiting each country to two gymnasts. But truly, that was never an issue.

U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Qualifying Performance and Meet the Team

Vault (Wieber, Douglas, Maroney)

Remember, the Americans perform what is called an Amanar vault – the most difficult type. Wieber led off with great technique on her vault and a very minor step on the landing, netting a fantastic 15.933 score. But that would end up being only the third-best score of the round – behind her two own teammates.

Douglas followed with an acrobatic run and a  15.966 score. Vault specialist McKayla “Air” Maroney is the gymnastics equivalent of a lefty relief pitcher specialist in baseball – the vault is the only apparatus she will compete on at the Games. Maroney launched powerfully off the vault, achieving rare air and landing daintily to applause throughout the venue and a 16.233 score – the best of the finals. And I laughed aloud at the incredulity of her perfection.

Russia posted vaults of 15.233 and 15.833, before Maria Paseka  fell off the pad for a 15.300, keeping the U.S. on top heading into the bars by 1.7.

Standings through Rotation 1:

USA USA – 48.132
RUS RUS – 46.366

Uneven Bars (Wieber, Ross, Douglas)

Russia came in with great strength on the bars and posted the second-best total on the event to the Chinese. Aliya Mustafina of Russia has actually created a release technique from the bars which has been named for her, and she executed it well with only a minor step. Russia finished with a 46.166 on the apparatus.

Team USA led off again with Wieber, who posted a 14.666 after a minor step on the release. Ross, who is the youngest member of the Fab 5 at 15, then posted solid 14.933, and Douglas, a.k.a. “The Flying Squirrel” for her powerful launches and speed on the bars, followed with a team-best 15.200, sixth-best overall. But the Americans were third overall on the apparatus – the only one they did not win on the evening – and the huge lead had dwindled to 0.399.

Standings through Rotation 2:

USA USA – 92.931
RUS RUS – 92.532

Balance Beam (Ross, Douglas, Raisman)

Ross led off the American rotation on the balance beam with a 15.133, and Douglas followed with the Americans’ best turn, a 15.233. Raisman closed with a 14.933, turning the apparatus over to the Russians. Aliya Mustafina had a slight misstep and scored a low 14.533 for her country, which totaled 44.399 on the apparatus, good enough for third overall behind Romania.

Going into the final event, Russia was down 1.299 to the Americans, who had a score of 138.23 and could clinch the gold with a consistent, solid showing on the floor.

Standings through Rotation 3:

USA USA – 138.230
RUS RUS – 136.931

Floor Exercise (Douglas, Wieber, Raisman)

With Russia and the United States staging a cold war of sorts on the scoreboard through three rotations, the gold was decided on the floor exercise. And that is where the typical icewater Russian resolve melted away.

It would take an epic comeback for Russia to put the pressure on the Americans, but before Team USA could even take the floor, Russia’s hope had hit it. Mustafina completed a stylish and solid routine but did have a couple missteps near the end, scoring a 14.800. But then, Anastasia Grishina tumbled to the floor before she could complete one of her style elements. The deduction was, as NBC commentator Tim Daggett summarized, “catastrophic.” Grishina posted a 12.466 – lowest in the field. Ksenia Afanasyeva also stumbled and followed with a 14.333, placing the Russians sixth out of eight squads on the floor and holding the door open for  the Americans to breeze to the gold.

Enter Gabby Douglas with an athletic routine on the floor, earning a 15.066 (third-best in the field). All eyes were on Wieber, with a shot at redemption and a chance to clinch the gold. She did not disappoint, running a confident and critical floor routine and scoring 15 flat. Raisman punctuated the victory with an effervescent routine and scoring a field-high 15.300, shedding tears of joy even before finishing after nailing the landing on her final element, with a beaming Wieber cheering her on.

It was a poignant victory for Team USA, with the Fab 5 holding hands until the official score was posted. Each of the girls excelled at her personal strength and contributed to what was a truly dominant team victory, regardless of whatever individual ambitions existed from the qualifying round. With their parents and families in attendance, the Fab 5 joined the 1996 women’s team as all-time American Olympic greats.

FINAL STANDINGS

1 USAUSA 183.596
2 RUSRUS 178.530
3 ROUROU 176.414
4 CHNCHN 174.430
5 CANCAN 170.804
6 GBRGBR 170.495
7 ITAITA 167.930
8 JPNJPN 166.646

Team First: USA Women’s Gymnastics Qualifies with Mixed Emotions

The USA Women’s Gymnastics Team may be more heralded than the all-time greats that performed in Atlanta in 1996, and they showed the world exactly why Sunday during qualifying. Unfortunately, they were so good all around that some of our girls will actually miss the all around.

First, let’s meet the Fab 5, as they’re now being called. Team Captain Jordyn Wieber, 17, from Michigan is considered the best in the world, and is in London as the defending World Champion from 2011. Gabby Douglas, 16 years old from Virginia Beach, may be the most flamboyant member of the team, having earned the nickname “Flying Squirrel.” Aly Raisman is the eldest member of the team at 18, from Massachusetts, and is a threat on balance beam and floor. Raisman trained with Beijing Olympian Alicia Sacramone. McKayla Maroney, from California has one of the best vaults in the world at 16 years old. Finally, Kyla Ross is the youngest member of the team at 15, born in Hawaii and hailing from California. They call her “Mighty Mouse.” Check out their bios here.

Results Explained

Athletes are competing in the qualifying events on three levels:

1) They’re competing to move on to the individual event finals. Athletes’ scores on individual events determine who qualifies for which events.

2) They’re competing for the individual all-around finals. Athletes’ scores from all events are totaled, and the top eight scores advance. However, there is a rule that states no country may advance more than two gymnasts into the competition. More on that later.

3) They’re competing for their country to advance to the team finals. Four athletes perform each event, but a country is allowed to toss out the lowest score in an event from among their athletes. These scores are then totaled, and the top eight countries advance.

ALL SCORES are reset following the qualifying rounds.

Team Qualifying

Here’s a link to the score results.

Team USA was absolutely phenomenal as a whole, posting the top score of 181.863, more than a full point ahead of traditional rival Russia and more than 5 points ahead of powerhouse China. Romania, host nation Great Britain, Japan, Italy and Canada rounded out the top 8.

The vault is widely considered the Americans’ trump card, and indeed it was USA’s best event. Each American gymnast performs what is called an Amanar vault, named for Romanian Simona Amanar who invented the vault and debuted it in 2000 in Sydney. It is considered one of the most difficult moves in gymnastics. Here is a video of Team USA demonstrating the move. USA began the evening on the vault and didn’t look back.

USA also posted the best team score on Balance Beam, finished second on floor only to Romania and finished third on bars behind China and Russia. These standings are unimportant, as the qualifying is determined by total scores only.

All-Around Qualifying

The girls came out in dominant fashion, with Raisman, Douglas and Wieber taking up three of the top 4 spots in the standings. Ross’s scores were not competitive against the field, and Maroney’s only recorded score was on vault.

It came down to floor exercise, and going into the final performance by Raisman, Douglas and Wieber were the top two scores on the American team. It was an awkward few moments as the judges tallied Raisman’s score, but she had a stellar performance which clinched her the No. 2 qualifying slot, and slotted Douglas at 3 and Wieber at 4.

However, Olympic competition rules state that countries may only field two gymnasts in the all-around. Because of this rule, the No. 4 qualifying score – belonging to Wieber – is not allowed to advance, and the defending world champion all-around individual gymnast will not be able to replicate her success at the Olympics. This was an overwhelming, emotional moment for Wieber, who considers Raisman her best friend and rooms with her in the Olympic Village. To their credit, all the members of Team USA are close, especially Wieber, Raisman and Maroney.

Wieber was visibly distraught, almost inconsolable, and was unavailable for comment until Team USA released a brief statement on her behalf and coaches offered their perspectives on the issue. She has since taken to Twitter to thank fans for their support and is seemingly prepared to compete her best for her country in the Team Finals. Wieber will be an incredibly important part of any success Team USA hopes to have going forward.

Raisman and Douglas will go into the All-Around as heavy medal favorites. Only 17-year-old Russian gymnast Viktoria Komova outscored the American pair in the qualifying round. Joining these three in the finals will be Russian Aliya Mustafina, China’s Deng Linlin and 19 other gymnasts.

Individual Event Qualifying

Floor Exercise

All is not lost for Wieber, however, as she did qualify to compete for an individual medal in the Floor Exercise. Apparently, the two-per-team limit also applies to individual event qualifying. Wieber has the second-best score on Team USA in the Floor event, where she’ll compete with Raisman – who scored best overall in the event – and six others, including two Romanian gymnasts.

Balance Beam

Douglas and Raisman had the top two scores for this event with a 15.266 and 15.100, respectively, and will compete in the beam finals. Their scores were third and fifth overall, respecitvely. Ross JUST missed qualifying for this event with a 15.075; though her score was sixth-best overall, the two-per-country rule applies.

Uneven Bars

Douglas is the only American gymnast who qualified outright for the uneven bars final, and this may be her best event – the one from which she’s earned her nickname due to the incredible height she achieves in transition from bar to bar. Ross, with the second-best USA score, is listed as a reserve. Wieber finished behind Ross.

Vault

Maroney’s only scored event in the qualifying round was the vault, which she qualified in the top spot for. Douglas had an equal score on the vault, but is competing in two individual events already and I believe this is the reason for her exclusion from this event. Further, because Wieber scored lower than Douglas, perhaps this is why she is not qualified for that event, though it would seem that if one athlete is excluded from competing in an event because she’s already in two others, a teammate would be entered back into the pool for consideration.

Analysis

To offer a subjective opinion here, I think the two-per-country rule is a ridiculous rule that must be changed. How can you determine who will win an individual gold medal for the best all-around gymnast if the world’s best gymnasts are precluded from participating in the finals because the two  other best gymnasts in the world are your countrymen or women? That makes absolute zero sense. I realize this is opening a can of worms in my previous arguments against the BCS giving Alabama a slot in the National Championship Game (I still think if you can’t win your own division, you don’t belong, but whatever), but this is a different deal.

In swimming, there is nothing preventing a clean medal sweep, nor in track and field, and there’s no better sight in sports than having three Americans on a podium, hearing the Star-Spangled Banner blared gloriously through arena loudspeakers and beaming with pride as Old Glory hoists in triplicate, representing the Gold, Silver AND Bronze medalists who have performed so admirably in her honor. Figure skating can have this, and gymnastics needs it, too.

However, in terms of pure competition, sometimes it doesn’t work out for the consensus top athlete. Look at Michelle Kwan, who won all sorts of championships but never won an Olympic Gold Medal, finishing second to Tara Lipinski in Nagano and to Sara Hughes in Salt Lake City. Sometimes you’re just beat, and your conqueror happens to wear the same uniform.

I’m very excited to see what someone with Gabby Douglas’ athletic ability and power can do against some of these Russian and Chinese girls, and it’s great to see someone like Raisman, who wasn’t necessarily considered to make it this far, to have a shot at age 18. Remember, gymnasts have peak performing years, generally in their mid-late teens. This may be Raisman’s last shot on the world stage.

Douglas and Raisman are good enough to hang with Komova in the top three slots. I really believe Douglas has the best upside here, as Raisman outperformed her own expectations, but Aly does have the veteran’s experience. Douglas’ weakest performance was on the floor exercise with a major deduction on a stumble out of bounds, and she dominates at uneven bars, though Komova and teammate Aliya Mustafina is strong there too. If executed well, nobody will come close to the US vault scores, and the balance beam competition is, well, balanced.

Look for the individual all-around to come down to the Floor Exercise, and my prediction has Douglas winning gold (homer), Komova silver and Raisman bronze.