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Rule, Britannia! Brits 8th in qualifying, get last spot in London Games available here
TOKYO (AP) ' Britain has qualified for the London Olympics, finishing eighth in prelims at the world gymnastics championships Saturday night.
The top eight teams here earned trips to London, with the next eight having to go to a second qualifier in January to determine the final four spots. The British had hoped to avoid that, and they did ' barely. They finished with 220.553 points and knocked Italy (219.578) down another spot. Japan also qualified, finishing fifth.
The Americans finished with the top score in qualifying, responding to the loss of Beijing Olympic captain Alicia Sacramone with a commanding performance that put them more than three points ahead of defending champion Russia. China was third.
The team finals are Tuesday night.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
TOKYO (AP) ' The U.S. kids were more than all right, responding to the loss of Beijing Olympic captain Alicia Sacramone with a commanding performance that gave them first place in qualifying Saturday at the world gymnastics championships and a spot in next summer's London Games.
The Americans finished with 234.253 points, more than three points ahead of defending champion Russia (231.062) and almost four in front of Beijing Olympic champion China (230.370). The U.S. didn't have a single fall, and finished with the highest scores on floor exercise and vault, and second-highest on uneven bars and balance beam.
"It's definitely heartbreaking not having Alicia here with us," said U.S. champion Jordyn Wieber, who was second in the all-around standings behind Viktoria Komova of Russia. "But we knew if we came out like we've been practicing, we'd do well."
The top eight squads secure spots in next summer's London Olympics, and also will compete in Tuesday's team finals.
"These guys are basically on a mission," U.S. coach John Geddert said. "I'm very, very proud of them. But again, it's only one step."
The Americans took a big blow on Thursday when Sacramone tore her Achilles' tendon during training. She and Aly Raisman were the only two who'd competed at a world championships before, with Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Sabrina Vega and Gabby Douglas first-year seniors, and Sacramone puts up big scores on vault, where she's the defending world champion, balance beam and floor.
And with uneven bars specialist Anna Li sidelined by an abdominal injury, the remaining Americans would have to do every event. It was a tall order for the youngsters ' and they handled it like old pros.
"They rose to the occasion," national team coordinator Martha Karolyi said. "I'm telling them always, strong preparation will give you confidence."
Maroney led the Americans off on balance beam and she appeared to have some jitters as she wobbled twice. But Raisman steadied the team with a solid set, landing an aerial backflip on the 4-inch wide beam easier than most people could do a cartwheel on dry land, and the Americans were off and running.
"I had a feeling we we were going to do really good because our training has been so consistent and our podium training was really good," said Raisman, who had the fourth-highest all-around score. "I have faith in all my teammates and I know we can do it."
Of course, it helps having a gymnast like Wieber. She established herself as one to watch when she beat world champ Aliya Mustafina at the American Cup, her very first meet as a senior, and hasn't disappointed yet.
Wieber put up the second-highest scores of the day on both balance beam and floor, where her peppy routine is sure to be ripped off by an aerobics teacher soon. Her opening tumbling pass was so high it's a wonder she didn't collide with the camera above the floor, yet she landed it as securely as if she had glue on the bottoms of her feet. Her dance movements were perfectly timed to her music, and she had the crowd clapping along.
She does one of the hardest vaults in the world ' a roundoff onto the takeoff board, back handspring onto the vault and then 2.5 twists before landing ' and needed only a small step. Geddert, Wieber's personal coach, threw up his hands and screamed "Yes!" before sprinting down the floor.
"I try not to think about the pressure too much," Wieber said. "We talked about it before the competition, that our main goal was to have fun today, and I feel like we did that."
Even Wieber's mistakes were impressive. She landed her third tumbling pass on her heels, and most gymnasts would have gone skidding out of bounds. But she managed to put on the brakes and, with a little shimmy, was off to her next trick. And on uneven bars, she got so far away from the bar on a release move there's no way she should have been able to stay on the apparatus. But she somehow got her hands on the bar, and finished her routine with a flourish.
There's more to the Americans than Wieber, though. Maroney does the same vault as Weiber ' only better. Raisman, who trains with Sacramone, appeared to channel her teammate's swagger on floor, getting the crowd bopping along to her "Hava Nagila" music. And Douglas, who struggled so mightily during podium training, performed every event with poise and precision.
The Americans confidence grew with each event, and they had national team coordinator Martha Karolyi and the U.S. contingent in the stands screaming and applauding as they wrapped up uneven bars. When the Americans marched off the floor, their smiles were as bright as the arena lights.
"We'll head back to the gym tomorrow and improve on the final details of our routines so we can come back even stronger for team finals," Wieber said.
The Americans didn't stick around to watch Russia, who had to settle for second after a rough outing on floor. Komova stepped out of bounds, Ksenia Afanaseva almost landed one tumbling pass on her knees and European champion Anna Dementyeva finished her final pass on her backside.
That wasn't as bad as China, which looks like a shadow of the team that won gold three years ago. Maybe it was the early start or maybe they're saving something for team finals, but the Chinese were uncharacteristically sloppy, and their meltdown on uneven bars, their best event, was, simply, stunning.
The Chinese are as precise as they are elegant, and mistakes are few and far between. Not on this day, however. The Chinese had to count two scores below 14 after big mistakes by three gymnasts. Think Kobe Bryant forgetting how to shoot, and you get the idea.
The meltdown was so bad that He Kexin won't make finals in the event where she has an Olympic and world title.