The Americans got started first on vault and its first competitor was Jordyn Wieber, the defending world all-around champion who stunningly failed to qualify for the all-around final after finishing third among her own teammates.
Wieber’s vault, though, was confident and she displayed her biggest smile of the competition.
Wieber earned a 15.933 and it only got better for the Americans. Gabrielle Douglas followed with a soaring and nearly perfect vault that was scored as 15.966.
The third American competitor, 16-year-old McKayla Maroney of Long Beach, the defending world vault champion, was even better. Doing an Amanar, the most difficult vault that any of the women will compete in, Maroney soared as high as possible and landed without a twitch even though she has a broken toe. Maroney earned a 16.233 and the U.S. finished the first rotation of four in first place with 48.132 points. “Holy Maroney,” someone in the crowd at North Greenwich Arena.
Vault is also traditionally the highest-scoring apparatus. The defending Olympic gold medal-winning Chinese team began on uneven bars and scored 46.399, which put it 1.733 behind the U.S. That’s not an insurmountable lead but it seemed unlikely anyone would match it. It is how team coordinator Martha Karolyi built the U.S. -- hoping to beat the world by so much on the vault that it would be hard for anyone to make up the difference.
The Russians, who are considered a strong gold medal competitor, had 46.366 points on the vault.
At the end of the rotation, the U.S. was first; defending Olympic team gold medalist China, which began on uneven bars, was second with 46.399 points and the Russians were third with 46.366. The Romanians, also considered a team favorite, struggled while opening on the uneven bars and found itself in sixth place, more than six points behind the U.S.