Gymnast Aliya Mustafina of Russia has won the 2012 Olympic gold medal in the uneven bars, standing atop the podium in a highly competitive event that also featured American star Gabby Douglas, defending medalist He Kexin of China, and British favorite Beth Tweddle.
He Kexin led off the event with a well-executed and difficult routine, earning a score of 15.933 and informing the other gymnasts that it would take an exceptional routine to get silver or gold. And she should know what it takes: she already has a gold medal from the Beijing 2008 Games in the bars, her signature event.
Later, with a perfectly executed routine, the tiny (4'9) Jinnan Yao of China posted a score of 15.766, flying between and above the bars with strength that seemed out of proportion with her small frame.
But then Beth Tweddle energized the London crowd with a spirited, high-flying routine that ended with a two-somersault and two-twist dismount — on which she took a backward step before getting her feet beneath her. Her score of 15.916 put her in position for a medal and thrilled the crowd at the Olympic arena.
Then it was down to Aliya Mustafina and Gabby Douglas, the Russian and the American who bolstered their teams in the all-around competition last week, before dueling in the individual final in which Douglas won gold.
Mustafina turned in a routine that was both strong and relaxed, hitting all her combinations and sticking the dismount with authority. Replays of her performance showed that she seemed to be smirking just a bit during one transition — perhaps sensing what was to come.
Her smile erupted in full after her score of 16.133 was announced, putting Mustafina in the gold medal slot with the only score that topped 16.
Wearing a shimmering silver leotard, Douglas took to the unven bars and hit the absurd heights that have come to seem normal for her, but she had some real trouble in her routine. As USA Gymnastics tweeted, "Gabby went the wrong way on her toe shoot full but covered up to finish her routine complete with double layout."
As she landed, Douglas took a step on the mat. Thanks to that, her need to improvise, and a low (for her) degree of difficulty, she posted a final score of 14.900, putting her in last place.
It was a stunning turnaround for Douglas, on one of her signature events. Afterwards, she reportedly hinted that she may be feeling the toll of the qualifying rounds, team all-arounds, and individual events.
"I made a little mistake and I paid for it," she said, according to the AP's Will Graves. "You get toward the end of the Olympics and you get kind of drained."
On his Twitter feed, Graves says that Douglas looks exhausted. She has one event to go in London: the balance beam Tuesday.
World and European champion Victoria Komova of Russia had a strong performance, but at the end of her routine she slightly clipped the lower bar, forcing her to take an extra swing as she prepared for her dismount. Upon landing, she faltered a bit before standing firm.
Komova, who earned a 15.666, has seen her hopes for an Olympic gold frustrated at the London Games. And she knew immediately that she had once again missed her shot at the podium's top step.