Gymnastics: Jordyn Wieber must regain form as Russians gun for U.S.

2012-07-31T00:00:00Z 2012-07-31T10:36:22Z Gymnastics: Jordyn Wieber must regain form as Russians gun for U.S.The Associated Press The Associated Press
July 31, 2012 12:00 am  • 

LONDON - The Americans need Jordyn Wieber to regain her swagger in a hurry if they're going to hold off Russia for Olympic gold.

The two gymnastic powers have been trading places in team competition for two years and will face off again on the biggest stage for an Olympic title tonight.

The Russians won the world championship in 2010, then finished second to the U.S. last year.

Defending world champ Wieber failed to qualify for the all-around competition at the London Olympics, but the U.S. women will be depending on her for a comeback if they're going to win their first team gold medal since the "Magnificent Seven" of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

"We're going to have to cheer her up and hype her up," teammate Gabby Douglas said.

After failing to qualify for the all-around, the 17-year-old Wieber sobbed and was consoled by teammates. She didn't speak to reporters afterward.

Later, she posted on Twitter: "I am so proud of our team today and I can't wait for team finals!!"

O2 Arena has rocked so far, and with host nation Britain in the mix after missing the team final at the 2008 Beijing Games, the scene should be even more festive - especially after the British captured their first Olympic team gymnastics medal in more than 80 years with a bronze in Monday's men's competition.

Now, it's Wieber's and Douglas' turn to chase that elusive American team gold and try to accomplish something the Nastia Liukin-Shawn Johnson show of 2008 couldn't in Beijing, where China captured gold on its home turf.

Former world champion Aliya Mustafina and the focused Russians were the only squad to come close to challenging the U.S. team after Sunday's qualifying.

The U.S. women's team will look to reach the top spot on the podium a day after the American men's team finished a disappointed fifth. The Romanians also are expected to challenge for a medal.

"I think we've definitely set the bar higher," Douglas said. "It's just an amazing feeling to know that Team USA is definitely strong. Even myself, we've come a long way."

While the U.S. dominated team qualifying Sunday with a score of 181.863, the Russians are determined to keep closing the gap with the world watching. Mustafina didn't compete in the 2011 worlds because she injured her left knee at the European Championships that April - and now she's back, but still trying to regain top form. Her vault, for example, is less difficult than the one she performed when she got hurt.

Wieber won't lack for opportunities at redemption, competing in three events during the finals. The only rotation she'll miss is balance beam, where a pair of wobbles on Sunday helped open the door for teammate Aly Raisman.

TV today

• What: Women's gymnastics team gold medal final (taped)

• When: 7-11 p.m.

• TV: Channel 4

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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