LONDON - It was a historic Olympics for the U.S. gymnastics team and a puzzling one. Just ask Aly Raisman. On the final day of competition, Raisman, the team captain and its most consistent performer, overshadowed Gabby Douglas, the star, and Jordyn Wieber, the star-crossed.
For Raisman, who will leave London with three medals, the most of any American gymnast here, these Games were a jumble of emotions.
There was joy: Raisman became the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic gold on floor on Tuesday after she performed what she called the best floor routine of her life, to the music of "Hava Nagila."
"To have it be at the Olympic Games, in the finals, is just really amazing and just a dream come true. That's what you work for your whole life," she said. This, after the USA won team gold for the first time since 1996.
There was confusion: In the balance beam finals on Tuesday, Raisman initially finished fourth. After her coach filed an appeal, the difficulty of her routine was upgraded and Raisman was awarded the bronze.
"I felt really good on my beam routine today," Raisman said. "I'm happy that it was good enough for bronze. This day has been so crazy and really special."
There was relief: Five days ago, she had the third-best score in the individual all-around event but she missed a bronze due to the tie-breaker rule.
"Finally, she gets what she deserves," said her coach Mihai Brestyan.
Brestyan then reached into his pocket and pulled out a four-leaf clover. "I had it today," he said. The good-luck charm had been given to him by young athletes he trains at his gym in Burlington, Mass. During the individual all-around finals, he had forgotten to put the lucky clover in his pocket; instead in had been buried in his gym bag.
Such is the fickleness of luck, and gymnastics. There was much to celebrate. For the first time in Olympic history, the U.S women won the team gold and the individual all-around gold in the same Games.
"It was an excellent performance," said national team coordinator Marta Karolyi. "I'm very pleased with this young generation. Medals-wise, I am very pleased. Winning the team gold and all-around gold, the two biggest medals any country can wish for, we are very proud of that fact."
The women earned five medals - three gold, silver and bronze. On the men's side, only Danell Leyva left with hardware, an all-around bronze. The six overall medals fell short of the team's performance four years ago, when the Americans won eight medals, including a team bronze for the men and a team silver for the women.
The last two days were difficult for Douglas, who became the smiling face of these Games and the first African American to win the coveted all-around title.
On uneven bars on Monday and balance beam on Tuesday, Douglas struggled, finishing last and second-to-last respectively. "I'm really disappointed in that performance," Douglas said Tuesday after slipping on the beam. "It could have been a little better but mentally I'm tired. But overall, I'm going home with two gold medals so I'm very happy. It wasn't my day to shine. Overall, it's been a good journey for me."
Nonetheless, she becomes the first all-around winner to not medal in at least one individual event since women's gymnastics was added to the Olympics in 1952.
Karolyi said all the attention Douglas received after winning the all-around gold was too overwhelming. "She's a young girl," Karolyi said. "She wasn't in the limelight before so it was too much too quick. She wasn't able to focus the same."
Douglas said she's more tired mentally than physically and is looking forward to all that awaits her when she returns home to Virginia Beach. She misses her dogs, Zoe and Chandler, whom she hasn't seen in almost two years since she left home to train in West Des Moines, Iowa with coach Liang Chow. They will be waiting with tails wagging, she said.
She's also looking forward to all the hoopla ahead. "It's going to be crazy. A lot of people are going to notice me more. There will be parades," Douglas said. "I'm ready for it. My life is going to change so much. I made the history books. I'm not going to go anywhere without people wanting a picture or an autograph."
For Wieber, there is a different sort of feeling. Pride in her team gold medal, but disappointment in the way these Games ended for her. She went out of bounds on her second tumbling pass and finished seventh on the floor finals on Tuesday.
Struggling with what is thought to be a stress fracture in her lower right leg, Wieber made no excuses for her performance. Sometimes it's just not your day.
For Wieber, it's been an Olympics full been full of joyous highs and shocking lows. Wieber's wild ride began when she finished fourth in all-around qualifying. She was denied the opportunity to compete for individual Olympic gold because international rules allow only two gymnasts per country in the finals. Two days later, her steely performance helped the Americans win the team gold.
Heading into these Games, Wieber was expected to be the team's biggest star, instead she left without an individual medal.
"It's a little bit of disappointment overall," she said. "At the same time leaving with (team) gold medal is more than I can ask."
Kelly Whiteside, USA TODAY