After Olympic all-around gold medalist Paul Hamm went down due to injury, the US gymnastics squad knew it just wouldn't be the same. Worse yet, Hamm's brother, Morgan, was also unable to compete.
A sixth-place qualifying finish was just what America expected for its six young gymnasts. But then came Monday night's final round. The U.S. stuck routine after routine and found themselves firmly in line for the silver medal.
Then, disaster struck.
Two crucial errors by the Americans on the pommel horse left them dreaming bronze. Then stepped in the biggest performance of the night—alternate Alexander Artemov's dazzling routine to calm the Americans, and mathematically force the German squad to produce some absolutely high marks.
That effort, however, was to no avail, as the Germans could muster only good scores, not great.
The Americans celebrated in elation as they realized that the bronze medal was theirs to keep.
In a night that saw the Chinese struggle mightily in their first couple of rotations, only to put on one spectacular performance after another, the one constant was the ability of young American Jonathon Horton.
Horton was incredible in all of his routines, including what was perhaps the finest high bar display of the Olympic Games.
For a team that was expected to struggle and embarrass themselves, this American squad was so resilient, even the St. Louis Cardinals would be envious.
Nonetheless, on a night where the U.S. dominated in the pool, the Olympic green may have been owned by China, but the Americans were able to do their own sort of celebration.