Congrats, America’s Angels!

I couldn’t feel more fulfilled by tonight. A few scores were questionable…. Chinese ages are still not being challenged enough… but in the end – my absolute, unwavering trust in the integrity of the sport has been maintained. Nastia had an Olympic night and she deserved that first place win – that All-Around Gold Medal. And Shawn had a great night. I made a mention in my predictions that she, on vault, was almost consistent to a fault… if that’s possible, and by third rotation, I found myself thinking – she’s consistent to a fault on everything. It’s both her biggest strength – she always hits, she always has an ON night, but she looked the same tonight as the did in Nationals, at Worlds – fantastic, but she didn’t go above and beyond that. She didn’t have Olympic moments where she sailed above what she’s ever done before. Nastia did that. Shawn did it on floor – that routine had me crying (not that that’s hard watching this stuff) and cheering. THAT was an Olympic moment. She knew what she had to do and she did it… and so much more. It was fantastic.

The little bit of rivalry that Matt and I built between each other was as erased as the tension between Shawn and Nastia themselves. I was crying my eyes out the moment Shawn got her score and Nastia knew she had one. I was crying as Nastia performed that final floor routine – an event she’s never been particuarly amazing on that she just killed. She went out and just gave the performance of a lifetime.

And seeing Nastia on that platform, only the third American woman in history to win the All-Around – after Mary Lou Retton and Carly Patterson.. .was magic, it was pure magic. Her smile, her absolutely infectious, rarely seen gigantic smile and her tears. She was so moved by her own accomplishment. When she saw the final scoreboard, knew she won, all I could think as she cried, hugging her father, was of the Amerian Cup in 2007 and of Nationals – where she was plagued with injuries, probably shouldn’t have been competing, had lost her status as the nation’s best gymnast. I saw that and then saw how much she has come back, fought through it and shown the world that she’s Nastia Liukin, and nobody can count Nastia Liukin out.

As for Shawn, I hope she’ll come back. I think she will. You can see it in her face – the fierce competitiveness, the humble joy she felt for Nastia at her deserved win, but also the intolerance of not out-performing herself. She wants gold, and I think she’ll fight for the next four years to stay at the top of her game. I think it’s safe to say that in London in 2012 we’ll be seeing another showdown between Shawn Johnson and another top gymnast.

Tonight was Olympic magic. In an interview, Shawn and Nastia said that since they started competing with each other, they’ve dreamed of going to the Olympics and taking 1st and 2nd place together – going 1,2 in the All-Around. They did it, and tonight, like the great Svletlana Khorkina said to Tim Daggot – was America’s night.

Congratulations Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson. Tonight and this Olympic season and for years and years to come – you really will be known as America’s Angels.

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Published in: on August 15, 2008 at 10:52 am  Leave a Comment  

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