Raisman finishes Olympics in style with floor gold
LONDON -- Aly Raisman finished the Olympics in style.
The U.S. captain matched Gabby Douglas in gold medals, winning the title on floor exercise Tuesday. Add in the bronze on balance beam from earlier in the day, and she becomes the most decorated of the Fierce Five.
"It definitely went better than I thought it would," Raisman said.
Good thing Raisman did so well because the rest of the Americans came up empty-handed. Douglas had another rough day, finishing seventh on balance beam after a fall. World champion Jordyn Wieber, voted most likely to leave the Olympics with the biggest haul, was seventh on floor and finishes without any individual medals.
Danell Leyva and Jonathan Horton were fifth and sixth, respectively, on high bar, leaving the U.S. men with only Leyva's all-around bronze.
"I'm so happy, going home with two Olympic gold medals and a couple of titles under my belt," Douglas said. "I'm so happy for Aly, she deserves to be up on that podium."
Raisman may not have Douglas' bubbly personality or Wieber's resume, but she is prized her for her steadiness, and that consistency paid off big in London.
Energized by her surprise bronze on beam, Raisman's floor routine had an extra spark. Her tumbling passes were some of the most difficult, and she got such great height on them you could have parked a double-decker bus beneath her. Her landings were not only secure, one was so powerful it practically shook the floor.
Coach Mihai Brestyan was hopping up and down and pumping his fist as she finished, and even Raisman was impressed with herself, mouthing "wow" after she saluted the judges. When her score, a 15.6, was posted, teammate McKayla Maroney yelled "whoa!" so loudly from the stands it could be heard across the arena.
"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.
It was the first Olympic gold on floor for a U.S. woman.
"It was definitely the best floor routine that I've ever done," Raisman said. "To have it be at the Olympic Games, in the finals, is just really amazing and just a dream come true. That's what you work for your whole life."
Catalina Ponor, the 2004 champion on floor, won the silver. Aliya Mustafina of Russia got the bronze, her fourth medal of the Olympics.
Deng Linlin won the gold on balance beam, upstaging teammate and reigning world champion Sui Lu. It was the second gold of the day for the Chinese, following Feng Zhe's 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.
Raisman had just missed a medal in the all-around, finishing with the same score as Mustafina but dropping to fourth on a tiebreak.
But she was on the right end of the rules earlier Tuesday, bumping Ponor off the podium for balance beam.
"It's a huge payback," Brestyan said. "She was a little bit disappointed after the all around. It takes us two days to put her head back and it was hard work, but she stood up and today it was exactly what she was waiting for."
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.
"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."
Not so much for Douglas in the event finals.
Douglas' life has been a whirlwind since she won the all-around title last week, with media wanting a piece of her and celebs flooding her Twitter timeline, eager to be her new BFF. There was training to fit in, too, with finals on both uneven bars and balance beam. She admitted after Monday's lackluster showing on bars -- she was last -- that it was all catching up with her.
"I'm definitely not going to lie. It was definitely hard to regain your focus," Douglas said. "You're like, 'Yes, I'm the Olympic champion. I'm a world champion.' It's definitely kind of hard to turn the chapter for event finals."
It wasn't a lack of energy that cost her Tuesday -- it was a misplaced foot. Her right foot could only brush the beam as she landed on a leap, and she had no chance to save herself. As the crowd gasped, she fell onto the beam in a straddle, hanging on tight as she swung partly underneath.
Still, she leaves the Olympics without complaint.
"Olympic all-around champion is going to be attached to my name," said Douglas, the first African-American to win the all-around title. "Life is going to be crazy for me. Even though we had a very bad ending of the chapter, the beginning was very strong."
On parallel bars, Feng gave the Chinese men their third gymnastics gold medal, following the team competition and Zou Kai's win on floor exercise. And they may not be finished, with Zou still to come on high bar, where he is the reigning world and Olympic champion.
Feng flashed a thumbs-up as he walked out for the medals ceremony, and planted a big kiss on the gold after he got it.
Germany's Marcel Nguyen was second, adding another silver to one from the men's all-around. Hamilton Sabot of France won the bronze.
Feng's routine was filled with intricate combinations, yet he did them with the precision of an artist and the rhythm of a musician. He held his handstands for what seemed like forever, looking like a statue, and there wasn't even the slightest hesitation as he went from one skill straight into another.
He hit the mat with a thud on his dismount and was pumping his fists even before he stood upright. He threw a roundhouse punch as he trotted off the podium, and his coach wrapped him in a big hug, pounding his back. When his score of 15.966 was posted, Feng, the 2010 world champion on parallel bars, nodded.
There were still six gymnasts to come, but it would take something pretty special to top Feng. And no one came close.
Nguyen's routine was impressive, but the European champion took a hop forward on his dismount and needed to windmill his arms to steady himself.
Zonderland has long been one of the world's best on high bar, his routine better than any circus act, and all that was missing was an Olympic medal. No longer.
He opened his routine with three straight release moves, not even pausing to catch his breath before tossing himself high into the air again. It's high risk, high reward, and the crowd loved it, oohing and aahing as he flew so high he could have waved into the overhead camera.
He was a blur as he pirouetted on the bar, yet never looked as if he was on the verge of going out of control.
When he hit the mat, he let out a roar. American Jonathan Horton, up next, could only laugh and shake his head, knowing there was no way he -- or anyone -- could top that show.
He was right, with Zonderland scoring a 16.533 -- a number not usually seen outside the vault. Zonderland broke into a grin when he saw the mark and pointed at the scoreboard.
It was the Netherlands' first gymnastics medal since 1928, when the women's team won gold.
"It's unique to be in an Olympic final if you're a Dutch gymnast, but winning the gold is bizarre," Zonderland said. "I worked so long to achieve a result like this. This is amazing."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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