Cheng Fei, one of the few legal contestants from the Chinese team, went first. She stumbled on the beam and nearly fell, but managed to maintain her balance. Her dismount had a step, but overall, her performance was strong and had a high difficulty at 6.800. Her total score after the beam was 15.950.
Li Shanshan of China, another of the coincidental 16 year olds on the Chinese team, is considered one of the best in the world. But on a back-flip, she completely missed the beam and tumbled off looking anything but graceful, barely catching the beam with her hands. She recovered like a champion, but she was not going to be in the medals in this competition, but her consolation is she can come back when she is actually of age. Her score was an absurd 15.3. Her fall should have placed her below 15, but it would not matter.
Shawn Johnson came up and was perfection. There is no way to describe it in words. A slight step back on the dismount was her only flaw. Every move was perfect. Her smile was glowing after the performance. Nastia was next, but Shawn was obviously anxious after other poor judging in these Olympics prior to her performance. Then, the smile. The relief. The score. 16.225. No one was beating Shawn this time, except maybe Nastia? That was the highest score on beam in China.
Nastia was similar in perfection. Smoother, but a slight stumble cost her the Gold. There was a hop on the dismount for another deduction, but this performance is similar in greatness. This time, no one would take the Americans’ thunder. This was 1-2 all the way!! Shawn and Nastia embraced and awaited the score. Both smiling, but both nervous. Nastia…16.025. No one would come close to either girl’s score. It was over.
Shawn Johnson GOLD!!! Nastia Liukin SILVER!!! US 1-2 and Legitimate Too!!
Liang Chow, the US Coach was gleaming. Shawn trained under coach Liang Chow for ten years for this moment.
Watching Shawn take the top of the podium for Gold was a tearful event for us. But Shawn was all smiles. During the National Anthem, Shawn was dead serious, and you could see a twitch in her face; the shock of it all was coming home. And just as you thought she would shed a tear, she turned forward and smiled. No tears are inside this girl.
After the event, Shawn said, possibly revealing her desire to quit at the top, “To finally get the gold on my final routine in my Olympic career…, uh, experience, it’s the perfect ending. It means more to me than any medal ever could.”
Indeed, Shawn had a fairy tale ending that brings tears to our eyes. And it was all that much sweeter with Nastia taking Silver at her side.
Please check our other Olympic stories on Shawn and Nastia by clicking here.
THE WINNING FORM!
The Awarding Ceremony