Wednesday, August 13, 2008

China Edges Americans for Olympic Gold Medal in Women’s Gymnastics

China won its first Olympic gold medal in women's gymnastics. This moment is the most important title in its rivalry with the Americans. China accomplished with 188.9 points in the women's team final Wednesday, more than two points ahead of the Americans, who came in as world champions and with the sport's two best gymnasts.

Nevertheless, the Americans lost any shot they had with multiple mistakes on their last two events, and had to settle for silver for second straight games. Defending Olympic champion Romania was third.

With three of the best floor performers in the world in its lineup, the United States handed over the gold even before the Chinese left their seats for the final rotation. Eventually, the Chinese are winning by 2.375 points. Romania took the bronze.

China coach Lu Shanzhen was astonished by the faltering performance of the American women's gymnastics team that allowed his athletes to take their first Olympic title on Wednesday. According to Lu, this is the most important gold medal, this proves, once again, the Chinese women's team is the best and excellent. Moreover, she was also surprised at the mistakes made by the U.S. team.

The U.S. team went into the final two routines, floor exercise and balance beam, both strengths, with an excellent shot at its first Olympic gold since 1996. However, from the moment Alicia Sacramone, the veteran of the squad, mounted the beam and then fell off, those hopes were doomed. Sacramone experienced a long delay before she was allowed to begin her routine, and it clearly affected her.

Not right away, though. Still, despite strong performances by world champ Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin on beam after Sacramone's struggles, and a fall off the beam by China's Cheng Fei, the Americans did not erase their rival's lead. Then, it all fell apart.

Sacramone fell on her second tumbling pass. Later on, she stepped out of bounds. She gave the judges a cursory salute before, stone-faced and shaken immeasurably; Finally, she left the floor.

Liukin, so often a ballerina on floor, blew right over the out-of-bounds line on her first tumbling pass. In addition, Johnson, otherwise so solid, even spectacular on Wednesday, also went over the line. By then it was over.

China could have gone through the motions and still clinched the gold. Instead, fortified by constant shouts of "Jia You" ("Let's Go") from the sellout crowd, they jumped, jived, and rocked the National Indoor Stadium.

Indeed, the smiles on the faces of Jiang Yuyuan, Deng Linlin and Cheng (during their routines), no more stoicism for these girls, matched those of their adoring fans in the stands. Moreover, on perhaps a billion more faces across their land.

Because of those mistakes, the Americans had to watch China's exuberant celebrations. After sharing hugs with their conquerors, the U.S. women left the stage to the gold medalists, who practically floated out of the arena. They held hands during the medals ceremony, and later bit their prizes, just as their compatriots had done on Tuesday. Later on, they picked up one of their coaches and tossed him into the air, with an assist from a few other people, of course. Although, on this triumphant afternoon, who is to say these young athletes could not have done the job themselves?

According to Lu, the job that the China’s team had performed was extra meaningful for their nation. As for the gymnastics, this gold medal can attract more children to the gymnasiums in China. On the other hand, ironically, three of China's team members have been accused of being younger than the 16-year-old age minimum.

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