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Published: Wednesday, 8/8/2012

Raisman soars in floor exercise win

American takes bronze in balance beam

ASSOCIATED PRESS

LONDON -- Two Olympic gold medals are just fine with Gabby Douglas. Same for Aly Raisman, though that bronze was pretty sweet too.

While the all-around champion failed to add to her medal haul Tuesday, Raisman wrapped up the London Olympics in style. Her gold on floor exercise was the first for a U.S. woman, and her bronze on balance beam was a bit of karmic payback.

Douglas may have won the most prestigious gymnastics title -- all-around champion -- but Raisman leaves as the most decorated of the Fierce Five with three medals.

"To say that I even almost had four medals, that makes me even more happy," the U.S. captain said, referring to an earlier tiebreak that snatched away a bronze.

Good thing too because the American medal count needed a boost. The six U.S. medals are the fewest since 2000, and the men were a bust. After all the big talk about challenging China and Japan for the team gold, Danell Leyva's all-around bronze was their only medal.

But the three golds -- team, all-around, and floor -- are the most for the U.S. since the boycotted games of 1984, and the women got the prizes that really matter: their first team tile since the Magnificent Seven in 1996, and a third straight all-around champion.

"Overall I think the competition went really well," said Douglas, the first African-American to win gymnastics' biggest prize. "I'm so happy, going home with two Olympic gold medals and a couple of titles under my belt. I'm so happy for Aly. She deserves to be up on that podium."

Not so happy was Jordyn Wieber, who leaves without a single individual medal after finishing seventh on floor exercise.

The Olympics have been one bummer after another for the world champion. She arrived as the favorite to amass the most medals, but failed to even qualify for the all-around. Now she's got six weeks in a walking boot to look forward to with what is believed to be a stress fracture in her right leg.

China wrapped up with four gold medals after Deng Linlin won balance beam and Feng Zhe claimed the title on parallel bars. Epke Zonderland won gold on high bar, the first medal for a Dutch man and only the second Olympic medal overall for the Netherlands in the sport.

As for Raisman, it seems only fitting that she leaves London with the most medals of the Americans.

The 18-year-old has long been overlooked. She doesn't have Douglas' bubbly personality or her bright smile, and she seems almost mechanical in comparison. Raisman doesn't have Wieber's resume, either. U.S. coach John Geddert joked that he was going to nickname her "Four" for all the times she's just missed the podium.

But her steadiness and reliability have made her a favorite of national team coordinator Martha Karolyi, and that consistency paid off.

Raisman was dismayed at falling just short of the podium in last week's all-around competition. She and Aliya Mustafina finished with the same score, but the Russian got the bronze on a tiebreak.

So it was more than a little satisfying to wind up on the right end of the rules, bumping Catalina Ponor out of the bronze on balance beam.

"A gold medal is a gold medal, but I definitely felt like [beam] was redemption from the other night in the all-around," Raisman said. "I was in the same exact position, but it went in my favor this time."

Raisman initially finished fourth with a score of 14.966. But she questioned it, and judges added an extra tenth to her routine's difficulty after a review. That gave her and Ponor identical scores of 15.066, but Raisman got the bronze because her execution score was higher -- 8.766 to Ponor's 8.466.

It freed her to let loose on floor exercise, her best event.

"I felt like I had nothing to lose," Raisman said. "It was going to be my last memory for London, so I just wanted to make it count and enjoy it."

Five gymnasts followed her, but none came close. When reigning Olympic champion Sandra Izbasa landed her final tumbling run on her head, Raisman let herself exhale.

And smile.



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