TOKYO (JPN), FIG Office, October 11, 2011: Eagerly anticipated by the fans, the first medal event of the 43rd Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, featuring the eight best women’s teams in the world, bedazzled spectators at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium tonight.Top qualifiers USA prevailed over their competitors in an action-packed Women’s Team Final, garnering a total of 179.411 and outscoring former World Champions Russia by more than four points (175.329). China again won Bronze with 172.820 points.
As opposed to the Team Qualifications that follow the 6-5-4 system, allowing each country to line up six gymnasts per apparatus, out of whom five actually compete with the best four scores making up the team’s total, the Finals follow a 6-3-3 system. This means the teams line up six gymnasts, but only three competitors perform in each event and all scores count. Scores from the qualifying round are not carried over to the Final.
Team USA had qualified in first place by a clear three points from Russia and China, and the main question tonight was whether or not this young team, missing their injured team leader Alicia Sacramone, could sustain the pressure and keep up the excellent performance they put on during the preliminaries when they beat defending World Champions Russia. One thing was certain: it would be a fierce battle for the medals!
It would also be interesting to watch Team Romania, the 2008 Olympic and 2007 World Bronze medallists who qualified in fourth place here, as well as Great Britain. The latter secured the eighth and last spot for this Final, having achieved their main aim in Tokyo of qualifying directly for the London Olympic Games. But they did not rest on their laurels tonight. Hosts Japan, Germany and Australia completed the lineup.
Team Romania had a rough start to the competition, with both Raluca Haidu and Elena Racea messing up their routine on the Uneven Bars. Ranked last after the first rotation, they redeemed themselves on the Balance Beam, the event where they had the top team score. Ana Porgras and Catalina Ponor scored highly, each with 15-plus. Romania continued strongly in the Floor exercise with solid performances from Ponor, Diana Chelaru and Dana Bulimar taking them into fourth place, narrowly behind China before the final rotation. Both teams then performed equally well on the Vault, and the fight for Bronze came down to a points difference of just 0.4 in favour of China.
Team China were eager to improve upon last year’s performance when they had surprising problems in their best events, the Uneven Bars and Balance Beam, and finished third. But the same problem recurred tonight and they again had falls on both apparatuses. On the bright side Sui Lu shone on the Beam and the Floor while Yao Jinnan recorded the second best overall score of the final with 58.924. Youth Olympian Tan Sixin learned some hard lessons on her senior debut when she fell off the Beam and on the Floor. But with 172.820 points overall the team’s performance was still good enough for Bronze.
Russia were without the 2010 All-around World Champion Aliya Mustafina this year and she was sorely missed tonight. Even though they put in a solid performance overall and had the top team score in their best event, the Uneven Bars, the team lacked the reliable mastery of their former leader. Youth Olympic Champion Victoria Komova, who led the overall rankings in qualification, showed nerves tonight, falling off the Beam and almost having another fall on the Floor after landing badly. Together with Yulia Ishina’s shakiness on the Balance Beam, the team total of 175.329 was not enough to defend the title and Russia claimed Silver instead.
And so the Gold was the USA’s! The team of first-year seniors and World Championship newcomers alongside Alexandra Raisman, part of the Silver medal-winning team of 2010, had stunned everyone during qualification. With incredible confidence and consistency they sailed into the lead in the preliminaries and they did the same in this Final. The team were nearly faultless, hitting one routine after another and never giving away the lead. On both Vault and Floor they had the best team total, McKayla Maroney’s 16.033 on the Vault was the highest score of the day and Jordyn Wieber’s total of 60.398 would have won her the All-around Gold.
For the US Women it was a third World Team title following 2003 and 2007. Alicia Sacramone, injured during training in Tokyo, left Japan to undergo surgery but remained on the roster and will consequently still receive a medal with her team-mates. It is Sacramone’s 10th world medal, making her the most decorated American gymnast in World Championship history.
The British team produced a near faultless display tonight to finish in fifth place, their best team result ever (169.670). With the attention of the whole arena having turned towards her, Beth Tweddle performed an almost perfect routine on the Uneven Bars, earning loud cheers and a terrific 15.666.
Even though 2010 World Champion Lauren Mitchell boasted the highest mark on the Floor, Australia finished in a disappointing eighth place. Mitchell, who failed to qualify for the Floor Final this time around, would have topped qualification with her 14.900 tonight.
Local fans cheered on Team Japan, who finished seventh with Koko Tsurumi’s performance on the Beam earning the team’s best score (14.833). Oksana Chusovitina’s vault (15.333) helped Team Germany to a 221.163 total, moving them up one place to finish sixth.
Gold USA United States 179.411
Silver RUS Russia 44.499 175.329
Bronze CHN China 43.824 172.820
4 ROU Romania 172.412
5 GBR Great Britain 169.670
6 GER Germany 168.479
7 JPN Japan 167.122
8 AUS Australia 166.739
The championships continue tomorrow with the men’s Team Finals. Stay tuned!