United States wins first gold medal in women's team gymnastics since 1996

LONDON – The United States won the women's gymnastics team gold medal in spectacular fashion Tuesday, decisively beating Russia 183.596 to 178.530.

This was the first U.S. team gold medal in the event since 1996 and the second overall.

"I am saying that this team is the best," U.S. team director Martha Karolyi said. "Only because that [1996] team competed in the United States."

The Americans coasted to the victory, needing only solid performances on the final rotation, the floor exercise. After Aly Raisman landed her final pass – good enough for a 15.300 – the Americans exploded, jumping, cheering, and hugging each other through tears.

[ Photos: "Fab Five" gymnasts go for gold ]

It was a day of redemption for Jordyn Wieber, the reigning world champion who, over the weekend, had failed to qualify for the all-around finals. She returned to the gymnastics hall and was spectacular, particularly on floor, where her clean, crisp, and entertaining effort all but secured the victory.

"I knew I had to redeem myself a little bit from the disappointment of the other day," Wieber said. "But, in the end, this was my ultimate goal – to win with this team."

The five-woman U.S. team – Raisman, Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Kyla Ross, and McKayla Maroney – was dominant and consistent throughout, taking an early lead on the Russians on vault and never giving it up.

Each team member had her moment. Maroney posted an incredible 16.233 on her vault. It was her only performance of the day, but it started the momentum. Ross was exceptional on balance beam. And Douglas, the only gymnast to compete in all four events, never bobbled.

[ Photos: The 'Magnificent Seven' gymnasts – where are they now? ]

"It's awesome," Douglas said. "I'm so proud of these girls. To come out on top feels amazing."

Russia, China, and the other contenders eventually fell apart, with mistakes and poor performances. The Russians were left in tears but finished with silver. Romania won bronze.

"I think they had problems in confidence level," Karolyi said of the Russians. "We focused so much on being mentally prepared. They knew they could do it."

The Americans were favored, and a large contingent of U.S. fans filled North Greenwich Arena with flags and signs.

In the end, they danced and sang, right along with the gymnasts.

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