Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber lead U.S. women’s gymnastics to gold

The U.S. women’s gymnastics team won its first Olympic team gold medal since 1996 and only its second in history at the London Games, as Russia, its closest competitor, imploded on its final event.

With it, this group of American women — some are already hailing them as the Fab Five — takes its place alongside the Magnificent Seven, who won the prestigious team gold at the 1996 Atlanta Games, thanks in large part to a gutsy vault by the injured Kerri Strug.

In similar fashion, this year’s U.S. women’s gymnastics team didn’t lack for heroines.

The United States was helped throughout by a courageous performances from Gabby Douglas of Virginia Beach and a solid, selfless showing by Michigan’s Jordyn Wieber, who shook off her heartache over missing the finals for the all-around title two days earlier to deliver key scores on vault, uneven bars and floor.

Russia finished more than five full points behind the U.S. (183.596) to take silver with a team total of 178.530. Romania (176.414) powered past defending Olympic champion China to claim bronze.

The U.S. women seized the lead after the first of four mandatory events at London’s North Greenwich Arena, delivering three spectacular Amanar vaults, considered the most difficult in the world.

Wieber set the tone by earning 15.933 points, and Douglas did even better, posting a 15.966. But McKayla Maroney’s compact, two-and-a-half flip Amanar produced a massive 16.233 and sent a shockwave of energy through the U.S. team.

The Americans never relinquished their lead or their confidence, acquitting themselves on the weakest event, the uneven bars, doing well on the beam and electrifying the crowd on the floor.

That was Russia’s undoing, with two of its three gymnasts falling during tumbling sequences and breaking down in tears. Russia’s gaffes took tremendous pressure off the Americans entering their final rotation, needing just 40.300 points — or a score of 13.500 each — to clinch gold.

And in turn, Douglas, Wieber and top all-around qualifier Aly Raisman delivered far more. And chants of “USA! USA!” rang out as the gymnasts jumped and huddled in a circle waiting for the scores that confirmed the obvious.

The U.S. led the field in vault, balance beam and floor and finished third in the uneven bars to round out a complete team effort with key performances from all five team members. Maroney (vault), Douglas (uneven bars, beam) and Raisman (floor) each led the way in an event and Wieber and Kyla Ross were strong in support.

China, the defending Olympic champion, finished out of the medals, overtaken by Romania.

The women’s triumph was a welcome boon for U.S. gymnastics following the sub-par showing by the U.S. men, who had been favored to win gold in Monday’s team competition but stumbled their way to a fifth.

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