U.S. gymnasts have one last chance for individual medals in event finals
LONDON -- The final day of Olympic gymnastics event finals marks the last chance for the two most seasoned American women to win their first individual medals.
Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber had been the U.S. stalwarts -- as much as one can be while in high school -- going into these Olympics. Raisman is the only member of the last two world championship teams, and Wieber is the reigning world all-around champion.
They were both integral parts of the gold-medal winning team Tuesday. Wieber led off the competition with a stuck Amanar vault for a 15.933, proving she had gotten over the disappointment of not qualifying for the all-around final, and Raisman took the victory lap with the final floor routine which scored a 15.3, the best score on that event out of all 24 gymnasts.
Two nights later, Gabby Douglas catapulted above Raisman, Wieber and everyone else by winning the all-around competition. Raisman tied for third place but did not medal because of a tiebreaker that threw out her and Russian Aliya Mustafina's lowest scores. Mustafina had fallen on beam, so her new overall score, sans beam, was higher than Raisman's. Wieber and the rest of the U.S. team watched from the stands, leotards in their closets.
"I'm trying not to think of [fourth place] as disappointment anymore because I got to compete in the all-around, and that was my dream," Raisman said. "I still had the third highest score in the world, whether or not they broke the tie. I still was in third place. I think that I surpassed a lot of people's expectations."
But expectations are higher in Tuesday's event finals. Raisman will compete in the balance beam, where she qualified fifth, and in floor exercise, where she qualified first and is the reigning world bronze medalist.
Wieber is also part of the floor final, where eight gymnasts (maximum two per country) vie for the final three medals of the artistic gymnastics competition at 11:23 a.m. ET. Wieber, sixth at last year's world championships, also qualified sixth into the final.
"That's all we have now," said Wieber's coach, John Geddert. "A medal would be phenomenal."
A look at the other three event finals ...
American Danell Leyva, the all-around bronze medalist, is the reigning world champion on the parallel bars, but he did not qualify into the final (he's the first alternate, so he'll only compete if one of the top eight withdraws). As it stands, there are no Americans in this final. Japanese brothers Yusuke and Kazuhito Tanaka were the top qualifiers, bumping out all-around champion Kohei Uchimura, who had the fifth-best score in qualifying. The man to watch closely is the third qualifier, Feng Zhe of China, who enters with the highest difficulty value and two world medals on parallel bars to his name. China has won five of the last eight world titles on parallel bars and two of the last three Olympic titles, both of those from Li Xiaopeng.
Two Americans made this final, an event where a U.S. woman has medaled in six of the last seven Olympics, including gold medalist Shawn Johnson in Beijing. Both Gabby Douglas (qualified third) and Aly Raisman (qualified sixth) could medal here because six of the eight women were within two tenths of each other in difficulty scores in qualification. That said, China's Sui Lu, listed at 20, is the reigning world champion and top overall qualifier. And Romania's Catalina Ponor, the last woman to win three gold medals at one Olympics in 2004, bettered Sui in Tuesday's team finals. This event is also a mini rematch of the women's all-around final between Douglas and Russian Viktoria Komova, who had the same score (15.266) in qualifying. Komova was reduced to tears settling for all-around silver to Douglas on Thursday and Wieber at last year's worlds.
This is the can't-miss competition out of the 10 gymnastics event finals. There will be jaw-dropping release moves. There will likely be a crash (or crashes, more than likely) to the mat as well. In the end, he who flies highest and most often without losing his grip should take home gold. Leyva and Jonathan Horton, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist on high bar, qualified third and fifth, respectively, into this final. China's Zou Kai, the seventh qualifier but reigning world champion, will try to win his third gold medal of the Games, matching his feat from Beijing. The top two qualifiers, Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands and Zhang Chenglong of China, perform the most difficult high bar routines in the world. The shaggy-haired Zonderland in particular is breathtaking in the air -- when he catches the bar. That's the key in the men's finale.