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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Errors Cost Gymnasts Dearly

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SYDNEY, Australia — Romania sneaked through and stole the Olympic gymnastics women’s team gold medal Tuesday while Russia and China self-destructed.

World champion Romania, competing in an earlier rotation than the two favorites, marched through the four events in tidy, workmanlike fashion, then watched from the sidelines to see if their score of 154.608 would be good enough to give them their first Olympic title since 1984.

It was. Russia and China, alone on the stage, committed a series of costly errors knocking themselves off the top of the podium.

"It’s very nice to win," said Maria Bitang, the assistant Romanian coach. "The Russians had a lot of pressure, and they made many mistakes."

Russia, which dominated the team event as the Soviet Union winning 10 Olympic titles, staged a late rally on its final rotation, the floor exercise, to take silver for the second successive Olympics with 154.403.

China equaled its best ever result by taking bronze with 154.008.

Defending gold medalist the United States, which captured the title in such dramatic fashion in Atlanta, failed to make a podium appearance this time, finishing fourth.

This is the first time since 1988 that the American women have failed to win a medal in the team competition. But after being left for dead last fall — their second last-place finish in the medals round at the worlds — the U.S. team has come a long way.

The Romanians displayed depth and consistency throughout their lineup that the other teams were unable to match.

Leading the way was Andrea Raducan, who finished with the top overall mark, followed by Maria Olaru, the overall world champion, in third and retiring Simona Amanar fourth.

"I was happy I was part of this big effort to win a gold medal," said Amanar, the winner of four medals at the 1996 Olympics, including gold in the vault. "It was my duty to help the Romanian team."

Russia, which dominated qualifying and looked poised to reclaim the title it surrendered to the Americans four years ago, began strongly, scoring solid marks on the vault.

But any hope of reclaiming the gold medal disappeared when Svetlana Khorkina, the team’s star and leader, lost her grip and crashed to the mat on her signature event, the assymetic bars.

The reigning Olympic, world and European champion on the apparatus, Khorkina was unable to hold the high bar as she exited a move invented and named after her.

"I wasn’t shocked," said Khorkina. "I don’t want to talk about things I think about."

The miscue triggered a crisis of confidence among Khorkina’s teammates as they moved over to the next apparatus, Yelena Zamolodtchikova and Yekaterina Lobazniouk both falling off the beam, thus putting Russia deeper into a hole.

The Chinese, however, failed to capitalize on the Russians’ misfortune, committing errors of their own on the floor and vault.

A disconsolate Khorkina, who was blamed for Russia’s failure to bring home the gold medal from last year’s world championships when she tumbled off the balance beam, attempted to pull her team back, scoring the evening’s highest mark on the floor.

"We got very low scores on the beam, which put the team down, but a good performance on the floor brought us back."

(AP, Reuters)