The loss of Alicia Sacramone to a torn Achilles tendon did not deter the United States women's gymnastics team, which won gold in the World Championships in Tokyo on Tuesday.
In spite of being down to five members, the team hit all 12 of its routines and beat second-place Russia by four points, which is a huge margin in gymnastics.
There's only one better way to follow a 20-for-20 performance [in the qualifications round], and that's 12-for-12 in team finals, John Geddert, the U.S. coach, told The Associated Press. I think they're oblivious. I didn't see one ounce of nerves out there. It was, 'Let's have fun and go do gymnastics.'
Sacramone, 23, had been the veteran of the team. She has competed at the elite level since 2002 and was the team captain in the 2008 Olympics, where the United States won the silver medal.
Sacramone flew back to the U.S. over the weekend and had surgery on her Achilles tendon on Monday. Her recovery time is unknown, but she hopes to make it back in time for the Olympics.
Her injury, along with an injury to alternate Anna Li, left the United States with a young and inexperienced team. Of the other U.S. gymnasts, only one, Alexandra Raisman, 17, had competed in the world championships before. The other four -- Gabrielle Douglas, 15; McKayla Maroney, 15; Sabrina Vega, 16; and Jordyn Wieber, 16 -- are all in their first year as senior national team members, but you wouldn't have known it from their performances on Tuesday.
I was hoping for it, but I could not be 100 percent sure because there were so many newcomers, Martha Karolyi, the national team coordinator, told The Associated Press. These girls were standing up very confident, very powerful out there.
The U.S. gymnasts impressed not only with their clean execution, but with their difficulty as well, especially on the vault. Two team members, Wieber and Maroney, competed one of the most difficult vaults in the world -- a back handspring onto the vault and a back flip with 2.5 twists -- and did it almost perfectly. For context, many Olympic-level gymnasts do the same vault with only 1.5 twists.
They also pushed the envelope on the floor exercise, where Maroney performed a back flip with 3.5 twists, making her one of the only gymnasts in the world to do that successfully.
The U.S. was able to breathe a bit easier after a Chinese gymnast, Huang Qiushuang, fell from the uneven bars, and the Russians' star gymnast, Victoria Komova, fell from the balance beam. But the team almost certainly would have won anyway.