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TOKYO -- American McKayla Maroney won a world title on her best event, vault, Saturday evening as event finals began at the 2011 World Gymnastics Championships.
Maroney's gold is the third triumph in as many days of women's finals for Team USA. The young, mostly inexperienced American squad surprised by winning the team title in dominating fashion Tuesday night, and Jordyn Wieber followed up less than 48 hours later by becoming the U.S.'s sixth world all-around champion, upsetting Russia's Viktoria Komova by a mere 0.033.On Saturday, Maroney got her own individual podium moment after landing an Amanar vault (a roundoff onto the springboard, a back handspring onto the vaulting table and a flip with 2.5 twists off) and a layout Podkopayeva (roundoff onto the board, a half-twist in the air before the vault table and a front flip with half twist off). She was unrivaled in the difficulty and execution of both efforts, and averaged 15.3 points for the two vaults, more than half a point above silver medalist Oksana Chusovitina of Germany. Vietnam's Phan Thi Ha Thanh won the bronze. "It was great to know that I could do that for the U.S., but also for myself, because I've worked really hard," said Maroney, who will turn 16 in December. The world title on vault has seemed a long time coming for the California gymnast, who first attracted attention when she completed the uber-difficult Amanar at the 2009 Junior U.S. Championships when she was only 13. She stuck the same vault cold at last year's U.S. Championships, but has had to wait until this year to be age-eligible for world competition. "It's more something that I do for fun," she said of vault, as compared to the other events. "I don't get nervous for vault -- I just do it." Chusovitina, 36, won her ninth world medal on vault. Yes, you read her age right. Her first vault medal, also a silver, came in 1991, four years before Maroney was born. Maroney's gold on vault caps a three-year run of American dominance on the event at the world level. Kayla Williams won the world title on vault in 2009, while Alicia Sacramone took it last year. This year's vault final was anticipated to be a showdown between Maroney and Sacramone, who was training a complicated twisting vault that has never been performed by a woman. But Sacramone tore her Achilles training on the floor in Tokyo before competition began last week and quickly returned to the U.S. for surgery, leaving Maroney to compete without her biggest rival on the event. "Yeah!" Maroney exclaimed when asked if she was disappointed not to be able to go up against Sacramone. "I think she really wanted to show the whole world her vault, and I wanted to compete against her too, to see what it is," she added.
|Russia's Victoria Komova won her first world title on the uneven bars.|