July 31 (Reuters) - It took 16-years but the ‘Fierce Five’ finally replaced the ‘Magnificent Seven’ as the gymnastic sweethearts of the United States when they became the first American women to win a team gold since the Atlanta Games.
Jordyn Wieber, who was last seen sobbing as she exited the North Greenwich Arena on Sunday after missing out on a spot in the all-around individual final, was back with her game face on leading an all out assault on the podium and this time it was the Russians in tears as they had to settle for silver.
Time will tell if Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney, who dubbed themselves the ‘Fierce Five’, will assume the aura of the Magnificent Seven that made Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Dominique Dawes and Kerri Strug household names in America.
But with the U.S. women back on top, team coordinator Marta Karolyi, whose husband Bela coached the 1996 squad, was labelling the 2012 gold medallists as the best.
”We have made great progress,“ Karolyi told reporters. ”We are a so much more united team, it’s definitely a team effort the girls know each other, they are best friends, they cheer for each other.
“It’s an incredible feeling, just in this moment you realise every single effort and every single sacrifice and so-called suffering through the years with the ups and downs it was worth it.”
No one in the North Greenwich Arena had gone through more highs and lows in the previous 48 hours than Wieber, the world all-around champion who arrived in London as favourite to add the Olympic title.
But she wobbled, more than once, during qualifying and will watch the all-around final from the sidelines as team mates Douglas and Raisman go for more gold.
An injured Strug hopping on one foot after completing the vault that secured the U.S. the title in 1996 remains one of the great images of the Olympics Games and while Wieber’s comeback from the crushing disappointment to lead her team does not quite have the same dramatic impact, her resilience set the tone for victory.
Opening on the vault, coaches backed up their confidence in Wieber by sending the 17-year-old out first and she delivered in dazzling style, launching herself down the runway and nailing her attempt to give the U.S. a lead they would not surrender.
”I was pretty disappointed but I knew I had to pull it together mentally for this team,“ said Wieber. ”I knew that getting this gold medal was a goal of mine so I really had to pull myself together and move on.
”McKayla was really helpful she gave me a pep talk the night after and it really helped me.
”I think that is the most important thing to have your team mates there by your side helping you through every situation,@ she added. (Editing by Alison Wildey)