McKayla Maroney, a 15-year-old from Laguna Hills and a first-year competitor for the United States at the senior level of gymnastics, won her second gold medal at the world championships in Tokyo on Friday night.
After helping the United States women win the team gold medal earlier in the week, Maroney won individual gold in the vault event final.
Maroney's two vaults averaged a score of 15.3 and gave her a solid win over silver medalist Oksana Chusovitina, a 36-year-old from Germany, who won the silver medal. Thi Ha Thanh Phan of Vietnam won the bronze.
"I was really calm," Maroney said by telephone from Tokyo after the medal celebration. "I didn't worry, I just felt really good going out there."
Maroney said she didn't cry during the medal ceremony but she said her U.S. teammates gave her a hard time. "They said I wasn't smiling," she said. "I think I was smiling. I felt like I was smiling. I don't know, it is just so great."
Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics, said the international judges made a point of praising Maroney's skills and form on her vaults, both in the individual event final and during team preliminaries and finals. "She was really electrifying," Penny said, "not only impressing the people in the crowd but for the judges. Members of the technical committee said they were impressed by every one of her vaults."
It is the third year in a row an American has won the world championship vault gold medal. Alicia Sacramone, who tore her Achilles' tendon while training in Japan on Oct. 6, won last year and Kayla Williams won two years ago.
Sacramone, who flew home to Massachusetts to have surgery, congratulated Maroney via Twitter.
"So proud you kept it in the country! thats my girl!" Sacramone tweeted.
Alicia Sacramone says on Twitter that the surgery "went well." It was performed by Dr. Robert B. Anderson, a past president of the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society and team doctor for the Carolina Panthers. A timetable for her recovery isn't known. U.S. men's team member John Orozco finished second in qualifying at the world gymnastics championships 14 months after blowing out his Achilles'.
2008 Olympic all-around Champion Nastia Liukin Tweeted today, "Let the journey officially begin." USA Gymnastics confirmed that the Tweet means Liukin is training again to make a run for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Liukin, who won five medals at the 2008 Olympic Games, says she will concentrate on the uneven bars and balance beam, but most likely will not compete in the all-around. She will begin two-a-day training sessions when she returns to Dallas from the World Championships in Tokyo, Japan, where she has official responsibilities with the International Gymnastics Federation.
Alicia Sacramone injured, to miss gymnastics world championships
October 6, 2011 | 11:14 am 09
U.S. gymnast Alicia Sacramone, the defending world vault champion and a returning Olympic medalist, injured her Achilles tendon during a training session in Tokyo on Wednesday and won't be in the lineup when the U.S. begins competition Saturday at the world championships there.
The Americans are aiming for a top-eight finish in the team competition, which would assure them a spot in the 2012 Olympics.
Sacramone was the only returning Olympian sent to Tokyo who also was a member of the 2008 team that brought home the silver medal. Three other members of that team -- Shawn Johnson, Bridget Sloan and Chellsie Memmel -- are part of the U.S. squad that will compete in the Pan-American Games in Mexico later this month.
Competing for the U.S. in Tokyo will be, on vault, Sabrina Vega, Gabrielle Douglas, Alexandra Raisman, Jordyn Wieber and McKayla Maroney of Laguna Hills; on uneven bars: Raisman, Maroney, Vega, Wieber, Douglas; on balance beam, Maroney, Vega, Raisman, Wieber, Douglas; and on floor exercise, Douglas, Vega, Wieber, Maroney and Raisman.
Former UCLA gymnast Anna Li, an uneven bars specialist who was a surprise pick for the team because of her swinging skills, is also out of the competition because of an abdominal injury, leaving the U.S. thin on that apparatus. In the qualifying round, five gymnasts compete on each apparatus with the top four scores counting. In the finals only three gymnasts compete and all three scores count.
Johnson, the 2008 all-around silver medalist who also won team and floor exercise silver and balance beam gold, was designated as an alternate for the team competing in Japan. But because Sacramone's and Li's injuries occurred after the team had already arrived in Tokyo, it was too late for Johnson to travel to the competition. Johnson is less than a year into her comeback from retirement after the 2008 Olympics.
It will be an inexperienced team now that tries to earn the U.S. its Olympic spot. Maroney, just 15, Vega and Douglas, who trains with Johnson in Iowa, are all first-year senior-level gymnasts.