Olympics | Gymnastics

Aly Raisman closes strong for U.S. women’s gymnastics team at London Olympics

 

Aly Raisman won gold in floor exercise and bronze on the balance beam, but Miami’s Danell Leyva was fifth on high bar.

lrobertson@MiamiHerald.com

When all was said and done at the Olympic artistic gymnastics competition, it was Aly Raisman — as reliable and unflappable as the Buckingham Palace guards — who won the most medals for the United States at the London Games.

Raisman won gold with her gorgeous floor exercise routine and bronze on balance beam Tuesday while the rest of the Americans came up empty-handed.

Miami’s Danell Leyva finished fifth on high bar, behind gymnasts whose routines were even more gravity-defying than his.

“We just didn’t have the stuff those crazy, amazing guys had,” Leyva said. “When I saw my score, I knew it wouldn’t be enough.”

Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands won the first Dutch gold medal in gymnastics since 1928 with a 16.533-point routine that had a start value seven-tenths of a point higher than Leyva’s. Silver medalist Fabian Hambuchen of Germany and bronze medalist Zou Kai of China also incorporated more difficulty in their maneuvers than the Americans and hit them all in a display of virtuosity that had fans inside North Greenwich Arena roaring their approval. Leyva’s score was 15.833 and Jonathan Horton (15.466) of Houston finished sixth.

Leyva won the sole medal for the U.S. men, capturing bronze with his dramatic comeback in the all-around event Tuesday.

“We just have to go home and get stronger,” Leyva said. “Before you get to the Olympics all you think about is gold, gold, gold. I’m extremely happy with my bronze because of the way I won it. But I’m not satisfied.”

Nor were the men happy with their fifth-place team finish, especially after they had placed third at world championships. But Horton said with Leyva and John Orozco still reaching for their prime, the United States should be able to convert its potential in the coming years.

“We had a young team that experienced the Olympic Games,” said Horton, who won two medals in 2008. “Mistakes were made, but we had to learn from this. I think we’ve awakened a sleeping giant because the U.S. can be a giant in this sport.”

The American women proved they are the team to beat with the team title and Gabby Douglas’ all-around gold — a double that was a first for the U.S. women. They nicknamed themselves the “Fierce Five” in a nod to the last U.S. team to win Olympic team gold, the “Magnificent Seven” of 1996.

Then Raisman finished with a red, white and blue flourish. Her floor routine was so clean she mopped up her erring opposition, and that included teammate Jordyn Wieber, the reigning world champion who was expected to dominate the podium in London. But Wieber didn’t qualify for the all-around final, scoring fewer points than Douglas and Raisman. Then, during her chance at individual gold on floor, she stepped out of bounds and flubbed a landing on her first two tumbling passes and had to settle for seventh place.

She frowned afterward at her 14.5 score and shouted, “Go, Aly!”

Raisman sprang across the floor with impressive height and snap. She mixed in clever dance moves and concluded with a thunderous run and perfectly timed, graceful split jump.

As Raisman came off the floor, Mihai Brestyan — her coach at his suburban Boston gym — pumped his arms and lifted her in a hug. Wieber patted her on the back.

“I felt like I had nothing to lose,” she said. “It was going to be my last memory of London, so I wanted to make it count and enjoy it.”

The five gymnasts who followed couldn’t match her 15.6 score. When Sandra Izbasa of Romania crash-landed, the usually ultra-composed Raisman knew she had won and broke into a big smile.

“It was definitely the best floor routine that I’ve ever done,” Raisman said. “It was the best feeling ever. That’s what you work for your whole life.”

Raisman won the first Olympic gold for an American woman. She finished fourth in all-around, missing a medal in a tiebreaker with Russia’s Aliya Mustafina. But on Tuesday a ruling in her favor enabled her to bump Romania’s Catalina Ponor from third to fourth on balance beam.

After Raisman’s initial score of 14.966 was shown, U.S. team coordinator Martha Karolyi and husband Bela requested a video review. Judges added a tenth to her difficulty, which tied her with Ponor, but Raisman got third on the basis of her higher execution score.

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