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Aly Raisman Becomes First U.S. Woman To Win Olympic Gold In Floor Exercise

Gymnast Aly Raisman became the first American woman to win a gold in the floor exercise, with her victory at the London 2012 Games.
Thomas Coex
AFP/Getty Images
Gymnast Aly Raisman became the first American woman to win a gold in the floor exercise, with her victory at the London 2012 Games.

U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman has won the gold medal in the women's floor exercise at the London 2012 Games. Her powerful routine garnered a score of 15.600 — enough to beat the 15.200 of Romania's Catalina Ponor, who turned in a technically strong performance.

Russia's Aliya Mustafina took bronze, with 14.900. American Jordyn Wieber finished seventh, with a 14.500 score.

The gold medal is the first won by an American woman in the floor exercise, according to USA Gymnastics. And it seemed to shock even Raisman, whose mouth and eyes went wide as she finished a mistake-free routine that was rated the most difficult of any attempted in the final.

In an NPR profile, Raisman, 18, described the intense conditioning she undergoes.

"Actually I have to climb the rope without legs, with 10-pound weights on," she told WBUR's Monica Brady-Myerov, adding with a laugh, "so it's very, very hard."

"I look really strong, definitely compared to normal girls," Raisman says. "I'm proud of it, I guess, because it's a lot of hard work to get that, and it doesn't just come overnight."

That strength helped Raisman today, as she competed in the floor routine final less than two hours after winning a bronze medal in the balance beam. In that contest, she moved into a tie with Ponor for third place, after a Team USA protest led to her score being raised from a 14.966 to a 15.066. And because Raisman had a higher execution score, she won the medal.

The win represented a turnaround for Raisman, who was denied a bronze medal in the individual all-around competition, despite having the same score as Mustafina, at 59.566 points. The medal was decided by throwing out the gymnasts' lowest scores, which put the Russian on the podium — an outcome that Raisman conceded was "a bummer."

In Tuesday's floor exercise final, Raisman left no room for doubt. Her scores of 6.5 (difficulty) and 9.1 (execution) were the highest given for a female gymnast in the floor exercise at the London Games — and sent her teammates into fits in the stands, as they cheered her on.

Tuesday marks the final day of the artistic gymnastics. Rhythmic gymnasts begin their medal rounds Thursday.

Raisman will leave London with two gold medals and a bronze — a fitting result for the gymnast who has admitted to watching an old VCR tape of the U.S. team winning gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, over and over and over.

Meanwhile, her teammate and reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber will leave the 2012 Olympics with a team gold medal — and a suitcase full of regrets about missing the individual all-around final. And it's worth noting that it was Raisman's brilliant floor exercise that pushed her past her teammate.

Gabby Douglas, the 16-year-old who electrified the London arena with her steady and spirited performances in the team and individual all-arounds, won two gold medals in those competitions. But she seemed to tire toward the end of the games. She committed costly errors in the beam competition Tuesday and the uneven bars Monday that kept her off the podium.

Overall, the U.S. artistic gymnastics team won six medals (including Danell Leyva's bronze in the all-around competition) in London. China's team collected the most medals, with eight.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.