The United States didn’t waste time putting Wieber’s emotional state to the test. She led off on vault, performing what’s considered the world’s most difficult stunt: the two-and-a-half-twisting Amanar.
It was the Americans’ “secret weapon,” Bela Karolyi confided later. Only a handful of gymnasts in the world even attempt the feat, and three of them are American. Wieber got them off to a terrific start, scoring 15.933, with only minor deductions for execution from the stunt’s high start value, and her teammates exulted.
“When she went out there and nailed that vault, it was contagious,” said Douglas, who followed next and got even more amplitude and higher marks.
Then came McKayla Maroney, who elicited gasps with her Amanar, a high speed blur of power and elegance as she whipped through the air as if shot from a candy-coated cannon. Maroney earned 16.233 points and was smothered in hugs by her coach and teammates.
Later, after all 24 gymnasts had competed, the Americans’ vault scores ranked first, second and third.
Said Wieber, asked about her disappointment she suffered in qualifications: “On the competition floor, the pain just goes away. I really mentally have to forget about it and just do my routines.”
Next came the American women’s weakest event, the uneven bars. And while they didn’t dazzle, they didn’t have any major glitches, either. Most importantly, they maintained their lead and their confidence.
The balance beam was next. Again, the Americans were solid across the board, blending acrobatics with grace. There were a few wobbles; no one fell or stumbled on her dismount.
Throughout the competition, the U.S. gymnasts were so focused on their own routines and those of their teammates, they didn’t notice the Russians and Chinese were short-circuiting around them.
The Russians’ floor routines, once the gymnastic power’s strength, were disastrous. Two of their gymnasts fell during tumbling sequences and broke down in tears. Russia’s gaffes took tremendous pressure off the Americans entering their final rotation, needing only 40.300 points — scores of 13.500 apiece -- to clinch gold.
And in turn, Douglas, Wieber and Raisman delivered far more.
“We just decided to go out there and be aggressive and be strong and courageous and not be afraid,” Douglas said later, a gold medal around her neck. “We went out there and did that. And it feels awesome to be the champions.”