Wieber Wins AT&T American Cup

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Jordyn Wieber kicked off her Olympic year with a victory and may have found a new threat to her gold-medal hopes.

The reigning world champion captured her third American Cup at Madison Square Garden Saturday, finishing with a score of 61.032 to beat teammate Aly Raisman by two-tenths of a point in the first major prep for the London Games. Wieber joins Mary Lou Retton as the only woman to win three American Cup titles.

Yet it was Gabrielle Douglas who stole the spotlight.

Competing as an alternate, making her ineligible for the all-around title, Douglas outperformed her more celebrated teammates, putting up a combined score of 61.299 points, nearly two-tenths ahead of Wieber.

It was a stunning performance by Douglas -- dubbed "the flying squirrel" by U.S. women's national team coordinator Martha Karolyi -- and attached a big asterisk to Wieber's triumph.

In the men's event, American Danell Leyva roared back from a slow start to win, surging from fourth to first in the final rotation with a thrilling high bar performance. Leyva finished with a score of 90.664, just ahead of Ukraine's Mykola Kuksenkov.

Britain's Daniel Purvis placed third, while American John Orozco's return to his hometown failed to produce a storybook finish.

The 19-year-old from the Bronx slogged his way through his first three events and finished fifth, blunting the momentum gained during a dominant victory at the Winter Cup in Las Vegas last month.

The opening ceremony in London is 146 days away, and there's plenty of work to do.

Wieber hopes to follow in the footsteps of Retton, Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin, all of whom used an American Cup win as a springboard to Olympic gold.

The 16-year-old from DeWitt, Mich., wasn't quite as crisp as her sterling performance at worlds in Tokyo last fall, when she surged past Russia's Viktoria Komova to win the all-around title.

Her grit, however, was in top form.

Wieber was powering through her uneven bars routine when she over-rotated while trying to do a handstand pirouette on the high bar. Her legs swung over her head and threatened to take the rest of her body along for the ride.

Instead Wieber dug in and held on, saving herself from a full-point deduction and gave a relieved hug to coach John Geddert afterward.

Though Wieber showed poise under pressure, it was Douglas who lit up the Garden.

She showed she's eager to compete on the sport's biggest stage with a dynamic performance that will resonate the next four months as Karolyi determines which five gymnasts will go to London.

Douglas calmed her nerves by nailing an Amanar -- a tough vault to land -- then crushed the field on uneven bars, more than .7 of a point higher than either of her teammates. Her biggest bobble came on the floor exercise, where a brief step out of bounds cost her valuable points.

Leyva pulled off a comeback, especially significant after a miserable performance in Las Vegas where he faltered on parallel bars -- the event in which he won the world title last fall -- and high bar in qualifying and finished fourth.

Leyva started slow Saturday and was in fourth going into the final event. On the high bar he unleashed a series of four daring release moves, flinging himself into the air then almost casually grabbing the bar on his way down.

With his stepfather and coach Yin Alvarez pacing in the background and the Garden roaring with each big swing, Leyva nailed his dismount.

He and Alvarez embraced after his score was posted, giving Leyva a much-needed confidence boost heading into the most critical stretch of his still young career.

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