Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

July 30, 2012

OLYMPICS: Wieber forced to refocus for women's team gymnastics final

LONDON — The U.S. women's gymnastics team has stressed for months its depth is the key to its dominance.

Now it has to make sure that depth doesn't accidentally lead to its downfall.

Sure, the Americans rolled to victory in Olympic team qualifying on Sunday, posting a score of 181.863 that only Russia came even remotely close to threatening.

But the image of world champion Jordyn Wieber leaving the floor in tears after failing to advance to the individual all-around final will be hard to shake. Beaten out by teammates Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, the ever-composed Wieber crumbled when she realized her dreams of joining the likes of Olympic gold medalists Nastia Liukin, Mary Lou Retton and Carly Patterson evaporated in a series of uncharacteristic miscues.

Now, Wieber has to find a way to regroup in time to help the U.S. capture its first team title since the "Magnificent Seven'' in Atlanta 16 years ago.

"This is the beauty of our program,'' USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said. "On any given day one of the girls on our team can do it.''

True, except for the last three years, that one girl has almost always been Wieber. She's only lost twice in competition since 2009, both times to fellow Americans. And she's never finished behind two teammates in the same meet.

Not until Sunday at least. How she'll respond is anybody's guess.

"She's a strong gymnast,'' teammate McKayla Maroney said. "She can turn it around in two seconds.''

Wieber will get two days.

She might need every minute of it.

The 17-year-old is the star the U.S. program has orbited around during the last three years, leading the Americans to a world title in Tokyo last fall.

She kept it going this spring and summer, with Douglas' emergence giving the U.S. a one-two punch few teams can match.

An all-around showdown in London between Wieber and Douglas has been looming for months. They've taken turns gracing the covers of national magazines trying to duplicate the showdown between Liukin and Shawn Johnson in Beijing four years ago.

Consider Douglas the winner by technical knockout.

The rules allow just two gymnasts per country to compete in the individual all-around finals. Raisman's rock-solid floor exercise on the heels of sloppy routines by both Douglas and Wieber allowed the U.S. captain to leapfrog her more heralded teammates and into the finals.

Even Raisman was stunned, barely blinking during interviews as she tried to balance the greatest day of her career against her best friend's bitter disappointment.

"It's really hard,'' Raisman said. "That was kind of like my first thought. I was really happy but then at the same time I feel bad just because I know how bad (Wieber) wanted it.''

And if it's gold Wieber wants, there's still gold to be had.

Just like the U.S. men, who will go for their first Olympic gold since 1984 in the team final on Monday, the ultimate prize has never been individual medals but the one that ends up with five girls standing atop the podium singing "The Star Spangled Banner.''

It's why national coach Martha Karolyi simply shrugged her shoulders when talking about Wieber's rough day.

"I'm very sad, but I'm very happy about the other girls,'' Karolyi said. "Hard work pays off ... we support Jordyn, but things happen.''

One thing will almost certainly have to happen by Tuesday if the U.S. is to collect the gold it has been stalking since storming to victory in worlds by a whopping four points: Wieber will have to find a way to overcome the kind of adversity she's so expertly avoided during her lengthy reign atop the podium.

Scores are reset in the finals, where teams enter three competitors in each event, with all three scores counting. Wieber is a virtual lock to stand in front of the judges and raise her hand several times. If she doesn't do it in the right frame of mind, gold could turn into a more modest color.

"I think that's a test of character,'' Penny said. "I think Jordyn's got a lot of character ... I think you'll see the best of Jordyn Wieber (in the finals).''

Wieber, her eyes blotchy from crying, declined to speak to reporters afterward but seemed to recover a few hours later, thanking fans for their support and insisting she "can't wait for team finals.''

The rest of the world can.

Even with the world champion struggling and Douglas making a major error on floor - landing so far out of bounds during one of her tumbling passes she appeared to be jumping into the Thames - the U.S. remained very much the class of the field.

Maroney, nursing a busted right big toe, anchored an eye-popping vault rotation that seemed to send a message to perennial powers Russia, Romania and defending Olympic champion China that the Americans have only improved from their blowout win in Tokyo.

"We were awesome,'' Maroney said. "We just hit, hit, hit.''

The Americans ripped through four Amanars - considered the most difficult vault currently done in competition - and never looked back. They finished their rotation a whopping 11 points in front of previous leader Britain and were never really challenged.

The Russians came closest, with Victoria Komova posting the highest all-around score of the day (60.632) to nudge Raisman out of the top spot. Former world champion Aliya Mustafina put up a steady if not spectacular 59.966 to place fifth, but the Russians will be hard-pressed to close the 1.4-point gap with the U.S.

China came in third, more than five points back. Romania, Britain, Japan, Italy and Canada will also head to the finals. If Wieber recovers in time, the rest of the field knows they're likely fighting for second and third.

"We knew the Americans were going to be up there,'' said Rebecca Tunney of Britain, which was in the same qualifying session as the Americans. "They're going to be unbeatable.''

 

1
Text Only
Sports
  • DSC_0016web.jpg District Champions!

    District champions ... Enough said!
    Claremore freshman forward Olivia Maulsby converted a game-winning header with 1:22 remaining to lead the No. 4-ranked Lady Zebras past No. 5 Skiatook, 2-1 Tuesday night in Metro Lakes Conference play at Lantow Field.

    April 23, 2014 3 Photos

  • DSC_0433web.jpg SOCCER: Bulldogs spoil ‘Senior Night’ for Zebras

    Claremore senior goalkeeper Sam Lillie made the most of his first and last varsity start Tuesday night against Skiatook on Senior Night at Lantow Field.
    For 40 minutes, Lillie was flawless in the goal, allowing only one goal and making several tenacious stops against the fiery Bulldogs.
    The second-half, however, told a different story as No. 3 Skiatook scored four goals and enjoyed a 5-0 win over the No. 15 Zebras.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Berryhill’s White strikes out 17, tosses no-hitter over No. 1 Verdigris

    Top-ranked Class 3A Verdigris got White-washed by 4A No.3 Berryhill on Tuesday night.
    In a battle of 2013 state champions, Chiefs’ ace Nick White — a future Oklahoma State pitcher —  fired a no-hitter with 17 strikeouts, igniting a 5-0 victory over the Cardinals.

    April 23, 2014

  • Stilwell’s Lea signs with RSU men's basketball

    Rogers State University men's basketball head coach Justin Barkley announced the addition of standout center Matt Lea for the 2014-15 season.

    April 23, 2014

  • HANSLOVANweb.jpg SOCCER: No. 2 Lady Cards roll past Oologah

    Verdigris senior forward Caitlyn Hanslovan tallied another ‘hat trick’ in her illustrious Lady Cardinals soccer career Tuesday night at Oologah.
    The three goals by Hanslovan soared the second-ranked Lady Cardinals past Oologah, 5-0 in non-conference play at Mustangs Stadium.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • 5 Claremore HS tennis players earn all-conference

    The Claremore High School boys and girls varsity tennis programs had five players receive Metro Lakes all-conference recognition.

    April 23, 2014

  • SEC MEN'S BB: Johnson, Poythress returning to Kentucky

    Kentucky's frontcourt will bring back size and experience next season after freshman center Dakari Johnson and sophomore forward Alex Poythress announced they would return.

    April 23, 2014

  • NBA PLAYOFFS: Grizzlies look to keep home edge against Thunder

    The Grizzlies are happy to be back in Memphis, where they finished the regular season by winning a franchise-record 14 straight games.
    They brought home-court advantage with them.
    To guard Mike Conley, that ratchets up the pressure even more. It's time for the Grizzlies to protect the place they call the Grindhouse.

    April 23, 2014

  • NBA PLAYOFFS: Warriors, Clippers to meet in Oakland for Game 3

    Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson sat on the scorer's table at Oracle Arena on Wednesday morning. He gazed around the building and tried to envision what it will look and sound like when the Warriors host the Los Angeles Clippers for Game 3 of their first-round playoff series Thursday night.

    April 23, 2014

  • Arkansas' Beeks among SEC pitchers having banner season

    Now more than ever, the key to success in the Southeastern Conference is pitching.
    The league has the lowest ERA in the country, and aces abound as postseason play approaches next month.
    LSU's Aaron Nola (7-1, 0.88 ERA), Arkansas' Jalen Beeks (5-3, 1.49) and Mississippi's Chris Ellis (5-0, 1.72) are among those dominating almost every time they take the mound.

    April 23, 2014