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American Jordyn Wieber rallies to win all-around gold at gymnastics world championships
TOKYO (AP) ' Jordyn Wieber and coach John Geddert weren't even looking at the scoreboard, so sure were they that the gold had gone to someone else.
Then the final standings posted.
Once again, Wieber was golden.
The American stunned Russia's Viktoria Komova to win the all-around title at the world gymnastics championships on Thursday night, rallying after making mistakes on both uneven bars and floor exercise. Wieber is the sixth American to win gymnastics' biggest prize at worlds, and adds a second gold to the one she won with her U.S. teammates on Tuesday night.
"I definitely thought I was going to end up with silver," said Wieber, who burst into tears when she saw the final score. "I'm so surprised."
The Russian was the only one of the top five who didn't have a major mistake, and it still wasn't enough to win the gold medal. She doesn't have Wieber's difficulty after the ankle injury that cost her the first half of the year, and she doesn't have anywhere close to the Americans' presence.
Taken together, it was the difference between silver and gold.
"I'm very disappointed," Komova said through a translator, her face sullen. "I'm very upset."
Wieber's big form break on uneven bars left her trailing Komova by more than a point midway through the meet. Though she pared that in half with a spectacular balance beam routine, she still trailed by about four-tenths going into floor and seemed to seal a silver medal when she took a big step out of bounds.
With Komova going last, Wieber stood on the sideline getting a pep talk and a pat on the back from Geddert.
"I told her I was proud of her no matter what," Geddert said.
Komova was clean, but the difference in difficulty gave Wieber the gold.
Barely. The 16-year-old from DeWitt, Mich., finished with 59.382 points, just 0.033 ahead of Komova. The 16-year-old's mouth dropped open in shock, and Geddert threw his hands in the air before sprinting down the floor.
China's Yao Jinnan won the bronze medal. Aly Raisman of the United States was fourth.
"It means so much to me," Wieber said. "It's a dream come true."
Add in last year's world champion Aliya Mustafina, who is out with a knee injury, and the competition for gold at the 2012 London Olympics is sure to be fierce.
"We can get better," Geddert promised. "That will definitely be the drive. We're not going to sit back and go, 'Oh, we're the world champion, it's an automatic for next year, too.' It won't be that easy."
Though this is the first worlds for Komova and Wieber, most expected the gold would go to one of them. With her elegance and grace, Komova has drawn comparisons to Olympic champion Nastia Liukin, though she packs surprising power, too. She won the European junior title last year, then took the first Youth Olympic Games title.
Wieber has lost one ' count 'em, one ' competition in the last three years, and she opened this season by beating Mustafina at the American Cup, her first meet as a senior. As an alternate, no less.
"I knew she was going to be tough," Geddert said of Komova. "I don't think (her ankle) is back 100 percent yet. With a little more training and a little more rehab under belt, she's going to be a monster."
Wieber had a sizable lead on Komova after the first event, but no one expected that to stand up. Not with the two going next on uneven bars, Komova's best event.
The American was up first, and she seemed to lose rhythm as she pirouetted on the high bar, and it caught up with her when she flipped to the low bar. She didn't fall, but she swayed as if being blown by a stiff breeze, and she also looked as if she might have scraped her toes on the mat. She scored a 13.6, more than a point less than she had in qualifying.
Komova's routine, on the other hand, was almost flawless. Lithe and long, she appears to float between the bars, and the smoothness with which she does her skills masks their incredible difficulty. Her dismount ' two back somersaults with a twist ' was acrobatic, yet she landed almost daintily. Her score of 15.4 moved her ahead of Wieber by a little more than a point.
"I thought that might be the determining factor," Geddert said.
But Wieber pared the lead in half with a dazzling routine on balance beam. Imagine doing a back somersault followed by a back handspring. Make your palms sweat? Now imagine doing it 4 feet in the air. On a 4-inch slab of wood. But Wieber did it with the ease of a cartwheel. On flat ground. And unlike most gymnasts, who whip from trick to trick to trick, Wieber actually has some choreography to her balance beam routine, giving it the feel of performance art. Really, really hard performance art, but performance art nonetheless.
Her score of 15.266 was the highest of the night on balance beam ' and third-highest overall ' and cut Komova's lead to less than a half-point going into the final rotation.
Wieber's floor number is saucy, and look for some aerobics instructor to rip off the upbeat music one of these days. She got such huge height on her opening pass she could have dusted off a lightbulb or two, and she looked like a rubber ball as she bounced from one element to another.
But Wieber got a little too much power on her third pass and had to take a big step out of bounds.
Surely, that mistake would end her chances at the title, especially with Komova being mostly clean on floor.
Instead, Wieber was standing atop the podium again, another gold medal around her neck.
"It hasn't quite sunk in yet," Wieber said. "Probably after a couple of hours it will sink in. I'll look back at my performance and be really happy."