It was the question on everyone’s mind before the women’s gymnastics team final on July 31: How did Jordyn Wieber feel? After missing the all-around final by 0.233 points, Wieber, the current world all-around champion, was crushed. Would she be able to pull it together for the team final and help the U.S. women win their first team gold in 16 years?
“I … am … fine” is what she told her coach, John Geddert, in a don’t-even-bring-it-up answer to his question that morning. Later that day, walking into the arena before the competition, Wieber’s mother Rita said Jordyn was “good but will be better once the team goes in there and rocks it.”
And rock it they did. Wieber got the U.S. women off to a rousing start with an emphatic vault that erased any doubts about her recovery from disappointment. Wieber, Gabrielle Douglas and McKayla Maroney performed the Amanar, the most difficult vault in competition. All three hardly budged on their landings after flying through the air in 21⁄2 twists. Scoring an impressive 15.933, Wieber set the tone for what in gymnastics counts as a rout, while Maroney, the world champion in the event, threw off a textbook vault that earned the highest score of the night and will likely be used to teach gymnasts for years to come. “I think that was the best one I ever had in my life, and I’m really happy to be able to do that for the team,” says Maroney. It took four Olympic Games, but the U.S. finally had its team gold.
The worries about the U.S. women’s squad going into the team event were dispelled so quickly and so definitively that it was easy to forget that Wieber wasn’t the only wild card. The talented Douglas, known as the Flying Squirrel, has also wavered during high-pressure meets. Not in London. “She did wonderful work and handled a tough job and big pressure,” says her coach, Liang Chow.
Beginning with Wieber’s stuck landing on the vault, the U.S. proceeded to knock off each event—vault, bars, beam and floor exercise—with impressive precision, making hardly a mistake among them. “If you look in the history of gymnastics, you see very few of them—very, very few of them,” says legendary coach Bela Karolyi of teams able to produce 12 solid routines. “Back in the old days, from time to time the Soviet Union teams have done that trick, but ever since, I’ve never seen it.”