Wieber, Raisman add to USA's medal haul
TOKYO – Americans Jordyn Wieber and Alexandra Raisman each won bronze medals as competition concluded at the world gymnastics championships Sunday.
Wieber, who earlier this week became just the sixth American woman to win the all-around title, took third on beam with a solid routine that included a one-armed back handspring into a layout and a standing back flip with a full twist. Her only mistakes were miniscule wobbles on a leap and side somi.
"I feel like today went really well," said Wieber, who earned three medals at her first worlds. "I kind of wanted to stay on the same note that I've been on for the past few competitions, just come in and do a strong beam routine, and that's what I felt like I did. To come out with a bronze medal, I was really happy."
Raisman, the only U.S. woman to have performed at a world championship before, broke through with bronze on floor exercise after fourth place finishes in the all-around and on balance beam. Floor is where she shines, and her skyrocketed tumbling and engaging "Hava Nagila" music had the crowd applauding spontaneously when they weren't clapping along to the beat.
"It's definitely just a dream come true," Raisman said of earning her first individual world medal."I'm really excited and honored to be here, and I'm glad that I finished the world championships off on a strong note."
U.S. National Team Coordinator Martha Karolyi said she felt the international judges didn't quite appreciate Raisman's tumbling ability compared to some of the other gymnasts who performed floor. Raisman does two of the hardest passes currently being done in the world -- a 1.5 twist through to an Arabian double front to an immediate front flip, as well as an Arabian double pike -- getting some of the biggest hang time of anyone in the world as she does it.
"I think that routine was the most impressive routine and I feel that this code of points doesn't appreciate the height of the tumbling, the power," Karolyi said. "When somebody tumbles up here" -- she gestured above her head -- "and somebody tumbles there"-- gesturing lower-- "I'm sorry but there's a difference. And the code of points doesn't differentiate that. But we're happy with Aly finally getting a medal, and we're very proud of her."
China's Sui Lu, who gave the performance of her life on beam followed by a visible sigh of relief after sticking her double pike dismount, won gold, a first for her at a world championships.
"The coaches tried not to give me too much pressure, but today I was very nervous," Sui said through an interpreter. "I just tried to control myself. This is my first time getting such a good result, so I am very happy and excited."
Sui nearly added a second gold on floor, but was passed by Russia's Ksenia Afanasyeva, a last-minute floor replacement for teammate Viktoria Komova. Afanasyeva's mature, polished choreography and presentation seemed to seduce the judges, who overlooked a few hops at the end of her tumbling passes and scored her above Sui, despite Sui having stuck more of her tumbling.
"I've been on the Russian team for many years, but I've only had team medals," Afanasyeva, the only member of Russia's 2008 Olympic team still competing internationally, said through an interpreter. "Maybe this was my last chance."
Sui's teammate Yao Jinnan, who looked extremely nervous right before she mounted the beam, nevertheless performed well enough to earn silver. The routine made Yao the most decorated female gymnast in Tokyo, with four medals in all.
Wieber, the first to perform on floor in the final, ended in sixth place. "That was an accomplishment for me," she said, noting that after performing 15 routines over four days of competition she was relying on adrenaline more than she usually has to.
Wieber and Raisman, who have roomed together during competitions in Italy, Australia and Japan over the past two years, were each other's biggest supporters as each performed. During their downtime in Tokyo, they ordered TV shows off iTunes and adhered to the same schedule, getting up early in the morning.
"Jordyn and I get along really well," Raisman said. "We're not shy around each other, so it works really well. We're kind of a perfect fit."
The Americans leave Tokyo as an established favorite for gold at the Olympics, but each member knows that being on the world team, even such a successful world team, does not guarantee them a spot on the five-member squad that will go to London. Though worlds have ended, all are aware that the journey has just begun.
"I'm really happy with how this worlds went, but I'm just going to go back home and keep training harder than ever before, because this is the year that everyone dreams about," Raisman said. "It's the most important year of all of our lives. I'm just going to stay confident, stay healthy and just work really hard and hope for the best."