Russian gymnast Nicolay Krukov only had to keep his cool at the end.

Romanian teenager Maria Olaru had to be outstanding.

American Blaine Wilson came up 0.001 point short.

That left veteran Krukov with the men's all-around world championship, newcomer Olaru with the women's, and Wilson just shy of a medal.

Still, Wilson's fourth-place finish today was the best by a U.S. male gymnast since Kurt Thomas's silver medal in 1979. Wilson was 10th two years ago.

"These are all stepping stones for Sydney," the 25-year-old four-time national champion said of next year's Olympics. "And if this is what it's going to be like, then I'm just going to have to focus on the little things."

One thing the three had in common was recent injury problems.

Because of a wrist injury in August, Krukov, 20, was not able to resume training until a month before the world championships.

"I didn't believe it could happen until the very last minute," the veteran of Russia's 1996 Olympic gold medal team said. "I was probably more surprised than the rest of the people."

A year ago, Olaru underwent knee surgery and had to stop training for nearly four months, said her coach, Maria Bitang.

"Maria thought that she would never be able to compete again. . . . Once she returned to the gym . . . she was more motivated and worked very hard to recover."

Wilson has had recurring problems with his right shoulder that underwent surgery in 1998. "I'm a little weaker than I should be."

But, he said today, "when you raise your hand and you walk out there and you do your stuff, you forget about all that. It doesn't matter."