By Ronald Martinez, Getty Images
McKayla Maroney failed to land her second vault and finished with silver medal in the event.
By Kelly Whiteside, USA TODAY
Sunday's vault final, McKayla Maroney, the reigning world champion in the event, was a lock for the gold. Her vault score in the team all-around was the highest in the competition.
The height of her handspring seemed to reach another stratosphere. The amount of air separating the American from her competition was immense, making her fall to earth that more shocking.
"I didn't deserve to win gold if I landed on my butt," Maroney said after settling for the silver medal in the vault final at North Greenwich Arena.
In her first vault, Maroney scored a 15.866, the best score of the night. On her second vault, she slipped on the landing and plopped on the mat, a 14.3. Her average score of 15.083 put her .108 behind gold-medal winner Sandra Izbasa of Romania. Maria Paseka of Russian earned the bronze.
On the medal stand, Maroney barely managed a smile, looking more angry than upset. After the ceremony she received a few comforting words from her coach and her eyes began to fill with tears.
"It's more of shock," she said, as she wiped away mascara. "I'm not disappointed about the silver. I'm disappointed about my performance."
Maroney, 17, has been performing her second vault without fail for three or four months, she said. She didn't want to blame the rare mistake on the high expectations because there were high expectations entering worlds and she met them.
"I don't want to blame it on anything other than I messed up," she said.
Maroney's hands didn't fully touch the vault. "It happens. It's gymnastics. You can't always be perfect. Sometimes things don't go as planned."
She never considered changing her routine after her first vault seemed to lock up the gold. "I've hit that (second) vault every single time. It's not going the hard or safe route. That's my vault," she said.
Maroney's first vault is so good several U.S. gymnasts and coaches said it should be renamed in her honor. Called an Amanar, the move is one of the toughest there is in the sport: a roundoff onto the takeoff board, followed by a back handspring onto the vault and then 2.5 twists in the air before landing.
Her vault in the team final last Tuesday, which helped the U.S. win the gold, will forever be remembered as one of the greatest ever. The Americans started the night on the vault (each gymnast has only one attempt in the team competition). Gabby Douglas opened with a 15.966, a stunning score on its own. But then Maroney followed with an eye-popping 16.233. Jordyn Wieber responded with a 15.933 as the Americans grabbed the early lead and never looked back in earning their first team gold since 1996.
"McKayla Maroney's was an absolute moonshot," U.S. coach John Geddert said then. "They should rename the vault. They should call it the 'Maroney' because it's a different league. She does it so much higher and faster and cleaner and more dynamic than the normal human."
On Sunday Maroney made no excuses. On most days, pretty much every day, she nails that vault. On this day, she was human.
The only other American competing Sunday was Jake Dalton in the men's floor exercise. He took fifth with a score of 15.333. Kai Zou of China won the gold with 15.933, gymnastics legend Kohei Uchimura of Japan took silver and Denis Ablyazin of Russia took bronze.
The final event was men's pommel horse, and the home country took silver and bronze, with Louis Smith and Max Whitlock, respectively. Krisztian Berki of Hungary took the gold.