As we get deeper into the Games, the boldface stories for each night multiply. Whether it was in the pool or the gymnastics arena, everyone really came to play last night. It continues to confound me how people can be this good at anything. My friends and I recently joked that, if I were to have a building named after me, the only option would be the Lanford Beard Center for Lounging Around and Talking S—. Which is pretty much the best — and only — way I can introduce tonight’s recap. Onward!
USA Women’s Gymnastics all-around contenders Gabby “Flying Squirrel” Douglas and Aly “STICK IT!” Raisman strode into the arena in hot pink, echoing the leotard in which Nastia Liukin won her gold medal in Beijing. Of course, before the competition could really begin, the commentators had to make at least one more “Isn’t it tragic?!!!” nod in displaced World Champion Jordyn Wieber’s direction. Also in the stands: Former Tiny Tim (and, oh yeah, 1984 all-around champ) Mary Lou Retton, 2004 all-around gold medalist Carly Patterson (who bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Bristol Palin these days), and overall Beijing victor Nastia Liukin, plus 1996 Magnificent Seven members Shannon Miller and Dominique Dawes.
As with Tuesday’s team competition, the Americans’ biggest challengers were the Russians, specifically Aliya Mustafina and Victoria Komova. Since both Mustafina and Komova faltered (though barely at all compared to the cataclysmic performances by their teammates) the last time they faced down Team USA, the question remained: Would they be able to overcome the previous day’s pillow-soaking disappointment? Could Komova and Mustafina summon the fire in their bellies to rally and knock our girls off the podium?
Judging from Komova’s first vault, it seemed unlikely. She took several steps way outside the boundaries, scoring well below the Americans’ solid marks. It’s worth noting that Team USA and Team Russia would compete in the same rotation all night. Maximum drama! Mustafina’s vault was, in fact, better executed than Komova’s, but her lower start value placed her in fourth after the first rotation. Douglas led, less than a point over Raisman.
Also in the rotation, China’s Deng Linlin, about whom Al Trautwig noted, ”We’ve had a lot of crying in women’s gymnastics [this Olympics], and she’s been part of that.” Thanks for rubbing it in, Al!
NEXT: Rotations 2-4, recapper gasps 584-2,372 (a.k.a. Yes! I will get to swimming!)