Behind an inexperienced group of youngsters, the U.S. women won the gymnastics world championships in Tokyo on Tuesday. They took the lead over Russia and China early, and never looked back. Their score of 179.411 put them ahead of Russia's 175.329, and China's 172.820.
After winning the preliminary round, the U.S. lucked out with the vault as their first event. McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman (pictured) and Jordyn Wieber each stuck their vaults, with Maroney's memorable Amanar vault scoring an enormous 16.033.
Next they headed to the uneven bars, which has long been a weak spot for American gymnasts. Sabrina Vegas, Gabrielle Douglas and Wieber all had routines scored in the 14 range. It was enough for the U.S. to hold on to the lead over Russia.
Vega, Raisman and Wieber sailed on the balance beam, leaving just the floor exercise. They had already built up such a high score that they needed to average just 13.4 to win the gold. With the difficult routines that the American gymnasts have on floor exercise, that was no problem. Maroney and Wieber both delivered. Raisman, the one gymnast with world championships experience, needed a 10.584 to win the U.S. gold. Not surprisingly, she surpassed that with a 14.666.
This is the third world championship win for the U.S., as they also took the title in 2003 and 2007. Heading into Tokyo, the team experienced several injuries. Returning Olympians Chelsie Memmel and Shawn Johnson did not make the team because they were rehabbing injuries. Rebecca Bross and Bridget Sloan, both world all-around medalists, also were out with injuries.
That left Alicia Sacramone as the lone Olympian on the world team. Unfortunately, she ruptured her Achilles tendon on Friday. In her place, Raisman -- who is Sacramone's training partner -- and Wieber stepped up to lead the team.
Heading into the final rotation, Raisman said to Wieber and Maroney, "All we have to do is relax and have fun and enjoy it."
Now, they will get to enjoy a world title heading into the London Olympics. The U.S. won silver in the last two Olympics after winning it all at the worlds, which is a streak that they'll want to break. The tough task in front of U.S. gymnastics is now to put together a team that integrates the best of the veterans and the newcomers. With just five spots, it will be a dogfight.