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Raisman Shines as Team USA Dominant in Qualifier

By Emily Kaplan | July 29, 2012, 1:30 p.m. (ET)

RaismanAly Raisman doesn’t like to look up on the scoreboard, especially right before she is about to perform an event.

So when Raisman completed her floor routine -- her final event of the women’s qualification -- she had no idea that her score of 15.325 was good enough to put her in first place among the U.S. women. She had no idea that everything she had worked for her entire life was finally becoming tangible.

She also had no idea that it meant her best friend, reigning all-around world champion Jordyn Wieber, would be knocked out of contention for an individual all-around gold.

The U.S. women’s gymnastics put on a dominant performance on Sunday afternoon at North Greenwich Arena to become eligible for the team final. After three of five subdivisions in the qualification round, the U.S. women lead the team standings with a total of 181.863, finishing ahead of Great Britain (170.656) and Italy (168.397).

Along with Raisman, Gabby Douglas also qualified for the all-around final. Douglas, who won the U.S. Olympic Trials earlier this month, totaled a 60.265, including an impressive 15.333 on bars.

Raisman, who at 18 is the oldest member of Team USA, is also the squad’s captain and the only one who was on the past two world championship teams.  Last year, she earned bronze on floor and finished fourth in the all-around at worlds.

When she nailed her floor routine, Raisman smiled then walked over to her teammates. That’s when her coach, Mihai Brestyan, told her the news.

"Really?” she peppered. “Who told you? Where does it say that?"

She asked several more questions and he assured her each time. Finally, she believed him. Then she broke down into tears.

“I’m really happy I made it,” said Raisman, who nailed a one-and-a-half to double Arabian, punch layout front for her first pass on her floor routine. “But feel really bad knowing how much [Wieber] wanted it.”

Many considered Wieber, who was instrumental in guiding the U.S. to team gold at the 2011 world championships, a favorite to win the individual all-around gold.

Team coordinator Martha Karolyi could not think of a single time when the reigning world champion didn’t qualify for the individual all-around.

“But many of these girls are high level gymnasts,” Karolyi said. “And they just had a stronger day today than Jordyn.”

Wieber’s omission from the individual all-around speaks to the team’s depth -- and is a good sign for Team USA’s aspirations to win its first team gold medal since 1996.

Wieber did not make many mistakes, and came in third place in the subdivision, just 0.233 points behind Douglas. However only two gymnasts from each team can compete in the individual all-around.

“It’s a bit of a disappointment,” Wieber said. “It has always been a dream of mine to compete in the all-around final of the Olympics, but I’m proud of Aly and Gabby, and happy that they reached the all-around and that I was able to help the team get to the finals. I think from the beginning, we were all looking very strong.”

Strong is an understatement.

The U.S. began with an exclamation mark on its first event, the vault. The U.S. is the only team in the field which has five gymnasts who can perform the Amanar. Each vaulter nailed the skill, scoring a 15.833 or better. With a 47.633 combined score on vault, the U.S. then moved to bars where it excelled again with a 45.032 team score.

Kyla Ross led the U.S. on the balance beam with a 15.075. Her routine included a front aerial to flip flop layout step out, a side somi and a double tuck dismount.

Then it was on to floor, where Raisman finished with a bang. Her second pass was a near-perfect piked double Arabian to jump.

The women’s team finals are July 31, followed by the individual all-around competition on Aug. 2.

There, Raisman will try to duplicate her performance.

“I did well today, but of course there’s always room for improvement,” Raisman said. “The important thing is that we all competed well, and we have a ton of momentum going into the team final. We all feel really good.”

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Aly Raisman

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Jordyn Wieber

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Gabrielle Douglas