Originally posted on Fox Olympics  |  Last updated 7/29/12
There is no joy in saying this to a 17-year-old whose entire world has just come crashing down around her, but it must be said because too much rests on her hearing it: Jordyn Wieber, US-gymnastics anointed star who failed Sunday to qualify for the all-around finals, needs to get over it. Right now. Perhaps her coach, John Geddert, has already impressed upon Wieber that her country's hopes for team gold ride on this. Perhaps USA Team Coordinator Marta Karolyi has already hammered home the message. Perhaps her teammates, including the two who kept her out of the individual all-around finals by scoring higher in the qualifiers, have gently reminded Wieber that she is the key. Perhaps Wieber, a championship talent who failed to best teammates Gabrielle Douglas and Aly Raisman during Sunday's qualifying, has already had that conversation with herself. But it must be said: This USA women's gymnastics team is one of the finest and deepest to have ever competed at any Olympics, and it needs its star athlete to bury the grief, wipe away the tears and help them get the job finished. This will not be easy. Wieber was understandably a wreck after her performance Sunday , and to see her tears and heartache so close and so fresh was as poignant and sad a sports moment as I've witnessed. She is just a girl, really, a kid who had hoisted upon her shoulders the hopes of everyone from NBC to US Gymnastics to herself. That is so much, maybe too much, for one so young. But she is also a competitor, and she is the veteran and leader of this very young American team, and they need her. Right now. The past has to give way to the task at hand, regardless of how deep it stings or how fresh it is. "We'll just have to support her, and we'll have to explain that this is sport, and things happen, and you have to be able to turn the page and take a next chapter, which will be the team finals, and perform at the highest levels," Karolyi said. "We stress the team, and they know always the most important thing is to give your very best so the team will be successful." The team certainly can be successful -- the kind minted in gold -- because the joyful fact behind Wieber's grief and struggle was that the US was utterly dominant in the qualifying round. They are the favorites, beyond a doubt, and with Wieber at full strength and marshalling her full focus, they should be able to bring home America's second gold team medal in women's gymnastics. The US team put up a first-place score of 181.863 Sunday, besting Russia (180.429) and China (176.637) by a wide margin. They were simply superb. In the individual all-around scores, they held the second (Raisman), third (Douglas) and fourth spots (Wieber). The fact each country only gets to send two women to the finals kept Wieber out, but with her at full strength, it also means they are wildly deep in the team competition and boast arguably three of the best four gymnasts in the world. Throw in McKayla Maroney, the best vaulter on earth, and rookie Kyle Ross, who comported herself well, and it's a powerful team. In addition to Raisman and Douglas advancing to the individual all-around, the American squad sent Maroney to the individual finals in vault, Douglas in uneven bars, Douglas and Raisman in balance beam and Raisman and Wieber in floor exercise. All of this means that, China and Russia notwithstanding, one of the biggest things standing in the Americans' way in their quest for team gold will be Wieber herself. If she doesn't come back having buried, for now, what she lost out on Sunday, then the promise she squandered will be nothing compared to what Tuesday would burden her with. This isn't easy. Jordyn Wieber was the defending world champion. Her face was as ubiquitous in USA Gymnastics circles as the Olympic rings. Her dream -- her every fiber -- had been calibrated to the moment she would win that all-around individual gold. To not even get the chance to win it is a bitter, awful thing. But this is sports, and this particular sport is a team competition. Wieber still has a chance to be a true champion. She can claim gold, yes. But she can do more: She can wipe away the doubt and the dreariness by returning, head high, and pouring herself into doing for her team what she did not for herself. Douglas, whose star rose higher as Wieber's dimmed Sunday, was candid afterward. "It's a little awkward," she admitted. "But you just have to learn to take it one day at a time. When I had my struggles, and I wanted to give up -- you have to turn the other way. Be positive. And say, 'OK, I'm going to go to the team finals and dominate this.' " It is awkward advice given who is giving it to whom. But it's also dead-on accurate. Hopefully someone -- Douglas, Karolyi, her coach, her parents, her own inner voice -- has already said it effectively enough to make a difference. The US's hopes of gold rests with its star getting past her dismay and performing, one last time for her team, like a champion.
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