Gabby Douglas (US Presswire)
By Kelly Whiteside, USA TODAY
LONDON - For reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber, there will be no chance to be the next Nadia or next Mary Lou. But Tuesday, in the team finals, she wrote a bigger story, perhaps a more lasting one, too.
The Americans won their first Olympic team gold since the "Magnificent Seven" in 1996 as Wieber shook off her own disappointment and came up big for the U.S. The Americans finished with 183.596 points. Russia won silver with 178.530. Romania took the bronze 176.414.
Competing in three of the four rotations, Wieber was her usual solid self. On this night at North Greenwich Arena, there was no time for jitters. She was first up on vault. As she landed a huge smile spread across her face. Wieber Fever had begun. As she left the floor, the first person to embrace her was Aly Raisman, her best friend and teammate who grabbed one of the U.S.'s two spots in the individual all-around.
On Sunday Wieber finished fourth during qualifying, missing a shot individual Olympic gold because international rules allow only two competitors per country in the finals. On parallel bars, Wieber didn't dazzle, but she didn't make any major mistakes. Afterward, the expression on her face - satisfied relief.
With a 1.299 lead over Russia heading into their final rotation, the gold medal was well in reach. Gabby Douglas went up first for the U.S. Usually the gymnast going next tries not watch, given the distraction good or bad, but Wieber stole several glances as she chalked up her hands. "Let's go Gabby!" she shouted. She smiled.
Wieber was just as brilliant. She shimmied and tumbled through a smooth routine. When Aly Raisman finished up on floor, the gold was secure.
The Americans entered these Olympics as gold medal favorites. They established their dominance last year at worlds by winning the title by a whopping four points over Russia. China, which won the gold at the 2008 Games, was third followed by Romania.
Even so, as the team's recent history shows, the top spot on the podium wasn't a given. The U.S. won worlds in 2003 and 2007 before earning team silver at the Olympics one year later. In both Athens and Beijing, the Americans had several last-minute injuries.
The Americans' toughest all-around competition was expected to come from a pair of Russian world champions, Victoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina, who is coming back from a knee injury suffered last year.
Still entering the competition Bela Karolyi said no other team compared to the U.S. "This is the deepest team in the world," he said.
It also may be a more consistent team, according to Karolyi, the celebrated coach of that 1996 team and the husband of current national team coordinator Marta Karolyi.
"I think this is a more even team with their performances," Bela Karolyi said before the tumult of Sunday night "The 1996 team had ups and downs."
Wieber's strength has always been her steely focus, her power and the level of difficulty of her routines. But she never had to come back from such an emotional setback. Wieber finished fourth during qualifying missing a shot individual Olympic gold because international rules allow only two competitors per country in the finals.
How would Wieber respond? Would she be able to pick herself up from the painful setback of her career? In her first event on Tuesday, Wieber answered that question. As she landed her vault, a huge smile spread across her face. Wieber Fever had begun.
For the last 16 years, the "Magnificent Seven" has been the measuring stick. Though the U.S. has had two Olympic gold medalists in the interim, Carly Patterson in 2004 and Nastia Liukin in 2008, the shine of those medals was dimmed a bit without the ultimate team honor. With the rosters now trimmed to five, it was up to Wieber, Raisman, Douglas, Maroney and Ross to work some magnificence of their own.
Raisman, like the rest of her teammates, has watched a video of the U.S.'s 1996 Olympic gold medal performance countless of times. Their unity is what stands out to her the most. "It was so magical watching them compete," Raisman said.
On Tuesday, the 2012 Olympic gold medalists made magic of their own.