TOKYO -- The young Americans are going to have to grow up even faster now.
Beijing Olympic captain Alicia Sacramone was not included in the U.S. women's lineup for qualifying at the world gymnastics championships after injuring her right Achilles tendon during training Thursday. She had tests at a local hospital, and was waiting for a doctor back in the United States to evaluate them.
The world championships begin Friday with women's qualifying, and the U.S. women compete Saturday.
Losing Sacramone is a huge blow for the Americans, who prize the 23-year-old as much for her veteran leadership as her big scores in balance beam and floor exercise, and on vault, in which she's the defending world champion.
She was one of only two Americans who'd competed at worlds before -- Aly Raisman was on last year's silver-medal squad -- and she believed keeping the rookies calm and focused was as important as anything she did on the floor.
The Americans still should have little problem finishing in the top eight and qualifying for next summer's London Olympics. But just a few days after looking like the favorite for gold, now winning a medal of any color will be a much bigger challenge.
Then again, the U.S. faced a similar predicament at the 2003 world championships, losing three team members to injury or illness. The Americans went
on to win their first world title.
The five remaining gymnasts -- uneven bars specialist Anna Li already had been ruled out with an abdominal injury -- will have to compete on each event in qualifying, where the top four scores count. Only three gymnasts compete on each event in team finals, but all three scores count.
U.S. champ Jordyn Wieber already has proved she can handle the spotlight, beating world champion Aliya Mustafina at the American Cup, her first meet as a senior.
But fellow first-year seniors McKayla Maroney, Sabrina Vega and Gabby Douglas will have to show they can handle the pressure as well as they did at last year's Pan American Championships. After helping the U.S. win the team gold in Guadalajara, Mexico, the three divided the four individual event titles among themselves. Vega also was second in the all-around to fellow American Kyla Ross, who is too young to be here at worlds.
Because Sacramone still is on the U.S. roster, she would receive a medal if the Americans win one. She currently has nine world medals, tied with Shannon Miller and Nastia Liukin for most by an American.
The United States' lineup
Vault: Sabrina Vega, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney.
Uneven bars: Raisman, Maroney, Vega, Wieber, Douglas.
Balance beam: Maroney, Vega, Raisman, Wieber, Douglas.
Floor exercise: Douglas, Vega, Wieber, Maroney, Raisman.