Nastia Liukin wins women's gymnastics all-around gold

created: 2008-08-15

Nastia Liukin of the United States edged her compatriot Shawn Johnson to win the women's all-around after a breathtaking Olympic gymnastics competition on Friday.

Finishing one-two on the podium, the American duo let the hosts' gold rush in the gymnastics pause after China wrapped up all the first three titles (men's team, women's team, men's all-round) in the National Indoor Stadium.

Liukin collected 63.325 points, after flawless exercises on each of the four apparatus with a good combination of difficulty and quality, beating Johnson by 0.600. The bronze medal went to Yang Yilin of China in 62.650.

Coming out in her first Olympic Games, the 18-year-old Liukin struck the most-coveted gold medal which she had waited for years.

She was an unlucky runner-up in the 2005 world championship in Melbourne, beaten by Chellsie Memmel by 0.001 points in her debut to the international arena, and the title also eluded her in the following two championships.

"I still can't believe what happened," said a beaming Liukin, who shared a sweet hug with her father and coach Valeri after the final rankings flashed on the screen.

She contributed her victory to her parents, both former Soviet Union world champions who moved to the United States when Nastia was two years old.

"My parents definitely had a big influence on my life and without them, I wouldn't have been here. My father is the reason why I won the gold medal and on the other side, my mother gave more support, getting me through the tough days."

Reigning world champion Johnson made no major mistakes but Liukin was in a different class on uneven bars.

Johnson started her fight with the incredible stability that gave her the title at last year's world championships, making full advantage of her specialty vault.

She caught the attention of the judges and spectators with a strong opening performance, gaining 15.875 points for an early lead.

But she suddenly dropped to third, behind Yang and Liukin, after the second rotation as the two both giving the best on uneven bars.

Liukin was awarded an awesome 16.650 points, with her dazzling routine on uneven bars and a difficulty of 7.7, while Yang was even better and acquired 16.725, the highest score of the day, equalling Liukin on difficulty but better on execution.

A small sway on balance beam further jeopardized Johnson's title hope, causing a chorus of sighs from the stands. Although Johnson showed the self-possession beyond her age, reconcentrating on her own game and finishing with no more mistakes, a gap of 0.600 points was hard for her to close in the final exercise of floor.

Performing before Johnson, Liukin held her nerves and an almost perfect presentation sent the audience into eruption.

The 15.525 points put Liukin firm on top of the podium and Johnson also leapfrogged Yang after acquiring another 15.525 for her solid performance.

"I was not disappointed at all. I'm happy to finish on the podium and very proud to be here," said Johnson.

"I'm really proud of Nastia. She works very hard and deserves it," she added.

China's Jiang Yuyuan crashed her medal hope after missing her landing on her opening vaulting and finished sixth.

Italy's Vanessa Ferrari, all-around world champion in 2006, was still struggling with her injury. She tumbled before her hands touched the mat after her opening manoeuver on floor and was only 11th after the four rotations.