Part of the Olympic Games’ appeal is how close the competition is. Olympic athletes will train tirelessly to shave a fraction of a second off their best time or execute a move to perfection so they can just barely edge out their competitors.
But that did not seem to be the case for the United States women’s gymnastics team, which delivered an absolutely dominating performance on Tuesday.
The five-woman group took gold on Tuesday, earning a grand total of 183.596 points, which eclipsed the second-place Russian team’s score of 178.530 by more than five points. Like most other Olympic sports, team gymnastics is usually decided by a pretty slim margin, so the American women's performance in 2012 is definitely one to remember.
As expected, this team is drawing comparisons to the incredibly impressive “Magnificent Seven” American team that won gold at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. However, teams only carry five members now, and rule changes make it difficult to make a direct comparison between the two teams.
But that has not stopped them from coming up with a nickname of their own. In an interview with Helene Elliot of the Los Angeles Times, team member McKayla Maroney—who helped USA attain the highest score on the vault—said, “I like the ‘Fierce Five’ because we are definitely the fiercest team out there.”
The gymnasts, who are all participating in their very first Olympic games, will now try to carry their ferocity over into the individual events.
Maroney has to be the favorite to win gold on the vault. The judges gave her a 16.233 score for her nearly flawless Amanar vault during team competition. According to Gazettes.com, Maroney’s vault had a difficulty rating of 9.7, and she is the only gymnast in the world who can attempt vaults with that level of difficulty.
Jordyn Wieber, who had a disappointing performance in the all-around qualifying round, was especially impressive in the floor routine for the American team. She scored a nearly perfect 15.000, helping the United States earn the highest ranking in the event.
Many will be expecting a repeat performance out of Wieber in the floor routine during individual events.
The only event in which the American team did not rank first was the uneven bars (ranking third), but that event is supposed to be Gabby Douglas’ expertise. According to People.com, the national team coordinator for USA gave Douglas the nickname “The Flying Squirrel” because of her ability on the uneven bars.
She will try to reclaim American dominance on the bars in individual events, while also competing on the balance beam and in the all-around.
Aly Raisman is a versatile gymnast who has the potential to medal in both of the individual events she will be competing in (balance beam and floor routine). Raisman had a clutch performance on the floor routine during team competition.
After watching the Russian team make pivotal mistakes followed by her own teammates’ nearly flawless performances, Raisman knew that there was no room for error if she wanted to help her team win gold. The ice that runs through Raisman’s veins will help her when it comes to individual events.
Kyla Ross, who is the team’s youngest member at 15 years old, did not qualify for any of the individual event finals despite performing like a mature athlete during team competition. Her best chance to medal in the future may be on the balance beam. Ross led off the American team on the beam and made no major mistakes, earning a score of 15.133.
In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Shawn Johnson was the only American to win a gold medal in an individual event (balance beam). But USA appears to be stacked with talent in the 2012 London Games.
Between Maroney, Wieber, Douglas and Raisman, the United States should easily be able to top what it was able to produce in Beijing.
The Americans just pulled off a historic feat by displaying their dominance during team competition. However, they cannot allow themselves to get wrapped up in their recent success.
Instead, the Americans need to remain focused moving forward so they will be able to continue their dominance into individual events.