Raisman finishes Olympics in style with floor gold
By NANCY ARMOUR,
Updated August 7, 2012
LONDON (AP) Two Olympic gold medals are just fine with Gabby Douglas. Same for Aly Raisman, though that bronze was pretty sweet, too.
While the all-around champion failed to add to her medal haul Tuesday, Raisman wrapped up the London Olympics in style. Her gold on floor exercise was the first for a U.S. woman, and her bronze on balance beam was a bit of karmic payback.
Douglas may have won the most prestigious gymnastics title - all-around champion - but Raisman leaves as the most decorated of the Fierce Five with three medals.
"To say that I even almost had four medals, that makes me even more happy," the U.S. captain said, referring to an earlier tiebreak that snatched away a bronze. "It definitely went better than I thought it would."
Good thing, too, because the American medal count needed a boost. The six U.S. medals are the fewest since 2000, and the men were a bust. After all the big talk about challenging China and Japan for the team gold, Danell Leyva's all-around bronze was their only medal.
But the three golds - team, all-around and floor - are the most for the U.S. since the boycotted games of 1984, and the women got the prizes that really matter: their first team tile since the Magnificent Seven in 1996, and a third straight all-around champion.
"Overall I think the competition went really well," said Douglas, the first African-American to win gymnastics' biggest prize. "I'm so happy, going home with two Olympic gold medals and a couple of titles under my belt. I'm so happy for Aly. She deserves to be up on that podium."
Not so happy was Jordyn Wieber, who leaves without a single individual medal after finishing seventh on floor exercise.
The Olympics have been one bummer after another for the world champion. She arrived as the favorite to amass the most medals, but failed to even qualify for the all-around. Now she's got six weeks in a walking boot to look forward to with what is believed to be a stress fracture in her right leg.
"It's a little bit of disappointment overall," Wieber said. "But at the same time, leaving with a gold medal is more than I could ask for, and it's so cool to be a part of that team."
China wrapped up with four gold medals after Deng Linlin won balance beam and Feng Zhe claimed the title on parallel bars. Epke Zonderland won gold on high bar, the first medal for a Dutch man and only the second Olympic medal overall for the Netherlands in the sport.
As for Raisman, it seems only fitting that she leaves London with the most medals of the Americans.
The 18-year-old has long been overlooked. She doesn't have Douglas' bubbly personality or her bright smile, and she seems almost mechanical in comparison. Raisman doesn't have Wieber's resume, either. U.S. coach John Geddert joked that he was going to nickname her "Four" for all the times she's just missed the podium.
But her steadiness and reliability have made her a favorite of national team coordinator Martha Karolyi, and that consistency paid off big in London.
"She's a very hard worker. She's a very, very hard worker," coach Mihai Brestyan said. "She's the most consistent gymnast we have for the last three years. ... She's not all-over perfect like Gabby except on her good days, but I think she gets what she deserves on the events."
Raisman was dismayed at falling just short of the podium in last week's all-around competition. She and Aliya Mustafina finished with the same score, but the Russian got the bronze on a tiebreak.
So it was more than a little satisfying to wind up on the right end of the rules Tuesday, bumping Catalina Ponor out of the bronze on balance beam.
"A gold medal is a gold medal, but I definitely felt like (beam) was redemption from the other night in the all-around," Raisman said. "I was in the same exact position, but it went in my favor this time."
Raisman initially finished fourth with a score of 14.966. But she questioned it, and judges added an extra tenth to her routine's difficulty after a review. That gave her and Ponor identical scores of 15.066, but Raisman got the bronze because her execution score was higher - 8.766 to Ponor's 8.466.
"It's a huge payback," Brestyan said. "She was a little bit disappointed after the all around. It takes us two days to put her head back and it was hard work, but she stood up and today it was exactly what she was waiting for."
And it freed her to let loose on floor exercise, her best event.
"I felt like I had nothing to lose," Raisman said. "It was going to be my last memory for London, so I just wanted to make it count and enjoy it."
Her tumbling passes were some of the most difficult, and she reached such great height that high-jumpers would be envious. Her landings were not only secure, one was so powerful it all but shook the floor. Brestyan was hopping up and down and pumping his fist as she finished, and even Raisman was impressed with herself, mouthing "wow" after she saluted the judges.
When her score, a 15.6, was posted, teammate McKayla Maroney yelled "whoa!" so loudly from the stands it could be heard across the arena.
Five gymnasts followed her, but none came close. When reigning Olympic champion Sandra Izbasa landed her final tumbling run on her head, Raisman let herself exhale.
"It was definitely the best floor routine that I've ever done," she said. "To have it be at the Olympic Games, in the finals, is just really amazing and just a dream come true. That's what you work for your whole life."
For Douglas, the end of the Olympics wasn't nearly as successful as the start. No surprise, really, after the whirlwind her life has become.
Media from all over the world want a piece of her, and celebs have been flooding her Twitter timeline, eager to be her new BFF.
She admitted after Monday's lackluster showing on bars - she was last - that it was all catching up with her.
"I'm definitely not going to lie. It was definitely hard to regain your focus," Douglas said. "You're like, 'Yes, I'm the Olympic champion. I'm a world champion.' It's definitely kind of hard to turn the chapter for event finals."
It wasn't a lack of energy that cost her Tuesday - it was a misplaced foot. Her right foot could only brush the beam as she landed on a leap, and she had no chance to save herself. As the crowd gasped, she fell onto the beam in a straddle, hanging on tight as she swung partly underneath.
Douglas knew she had no shot at a medal, and she looked dejected as she sat on the sidelines.
Still, she leaves the Olympics without complaint.
"Overall, it was very good," Douglas said. "Olympic all-around champion is going to be attached to my name."