The showdown is upon us. It's showtime. With all due respect to devotees of Anglo-Sino basketball, the 100-meter dash and
The beauty of it is China and the U.S. will be paired together, competing on the same apparatus at the same time. The two favorites for gold will know exactly where they stand relative to each other, and so will the raucously pro-Chinese crowd at the 19,000-seat National Indoor Stadium. The first event will be vault, followed by the uneven bars, the treacherous beam and, finally, the floor exercise. Here are the key things to watch for.
2. China will almost certainly win the uneven bars, which is its specialty. The question is: by how much?
3. The Americans have taken to calling themselves The Beam Team, so confident are they in their skills at this apparatus. This could be where the gold medal is won or lost. The trio of Sacramone, Liukin and Johnson were all flawless on the balance beam in the preliminaries, and the U.S. beat the Chinese, who traditionally dominate it, by .35. If the Americans can repeat those performances, and they've managed to get past the uneven bars without blood being spilled, the gold will be their's to lose.
4. Some observers have noted that the music played for the Chinese gymnasts on the floor exercise is louder than it is for other competitors, the better to get the crowd involved and mask small mistakes. The U.S. is traditionally dominant on floor, but in the preliminaries Sacramone uncharacteristically stepped out of bounds and posted a disappointing 14.425. Largely as a result, China beat the U.S. in the floor by a relatively wide margin of .70. That can't happen again if the U.S. is to win gold.
Liukin will be up second, and the final U.S. gymnasts of the night is the one on whom their gold medal hopes have rested from the start: the diminutive Johnson. The world champion in this event, she's planning to add a 1½ twist move onto her final pass. She's had some trouble with it in training sessions, but look for her to land it in the finals, leading the U.S. team to its first team gold since 1996.