LONDON -- Slips, falls and tears were not what the U.S. mens gymnastics team was expecting at the Olympics.
The men wanted a bronze medal or better, and after qualifying in first place for Mondays team final, they were primed for a breakthrough and their best performance since the United States won gold at the boycotted 1984 Games.
But things began sloppily on floor exercise, got worse with rough rides on pommel horse and hit bottom with a crash landing on vault. Despite a soaring finale by Miamis Danell Leyva on horizontal bar, it wasnt enough to make up for what went wrong. Not nearly enough.
The United States finished fifth, a step back from its third-place finishes at the 2008 Olympics and 2011 world championships.
China performed with effortless precision on its last four rotations to win its second Olympic gold medal in a row. China has not lost a major title in six years.
While the Americans hugged and flicked away tears of disappointment, the Chinese exulted, holding aloft yellow stars and clenched fists.
In contrast to the United States, it was a historic night for Great Britain not known for its acrobatic prowess which won its first medal in mens team gymnastics in 100 years. Great Britain did not even qualify for the finals at the 2008 Olympics, finished 10th at the 2011 world championships and barely nabbed a spot in its own Olympics at a last-chance test event in January.
The British athletes were ecstatic, even after their initially posted silver-medal finish was downgraded after a judges inquiry into a pommel horse score for Japans Kohei Uchimura revised the point totals, pushing Japan from fourth to second, Ukraine from third to fourth and Great Britain from second to third.
The Americans didnt benefit. They were stuck in fifth, almost two points out of medal range.
It would be easy to mope and be depressed but what were about is getting back up and fighting harder, said Leyva, who lives in Homestead and trains in West Kendall. We had an off day, but we never lost our spirit.
After the womens team final Tuesday, Leyva and John Orozco return for the all-around final, followed by event finals later in the week for Leyva, Jonathan Horton, Jake Dalton and Sam Mikulak.
But where they really wanted to show their amazing stuff was during the six-ring circus of the team competition, where gymnasts are simultaneously flipping and spinning in dizzying succession on one apparatus after another. Its exhilarating to shift your focus from the handiwork of horse to the launches off vault to the muscle-busting moves on rings. You hear a cheer go up to your left, then react to the gasp on your right.
Spectators inside North Greenwich Arena waved Union Jack flags and screamed for the home team, which gained momentum until concluding with a series of fluid tumbling runs and the highest score on floor.
To have the crowd erupting after each apparatus it was mad, said team captain Louis Smith, who aced pommel horse with a 15.966. Thats the Olympic fever. It adds extra pressure, but you can use it to your advantage.
The U.S. team seemed to melt under it. Four athletes were competing in their first Olympics. Uncharacteristic mistakes rattled them and deductions piled up. Mikulak began with a solid floor routine, but put his hands down to steady his dismount and wound up with 14.6 points.