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Fierce Five are forever golden
They gathered together again Wednesday, on virtually no sleep and sporting their historic gymnastics haul: A team gold, an individual all-around gold, a gold on the floor, a silver on the vault and a bronze on the balance beam.
The stress and pressure and even some of the individual disappointments had faded away, making room for hugs and jokes and an overpowering sense of relief that they had done it. Five girls, wanting to be called the “Fierce Five,” had come together as a group and made history.
These were girls who had changed. Some, like Gabrielle Douglas and Aly Raisman, came to London as teenagers and are leaving as stars. Others, like vaulter McKayla Maroney, had taken silver instead of gold but now could talk about it without tears. Jordyn Wieber had not done what was hyped but had comported herself with the dignity and grace of a champion. Kyla Ross, little known even now, had been tasked only with team finals. She performed like the gold medalist she became.
“I’m so proud of all the girls,” said Maroney, looking around the room at her teammates. “Aly to get a bronze and a gold, and Jordyn to finish up so strong at team finals, and Gabby to win the all-around gold, and Kyla, who’s still a baby, to get on this team. All these girls have their own story, and we all had our own ups and downs, but what we did is just so amazing.”
The brightest among them all – the star most illuminated in the glow of gold – was Gabby Douglas. She earned that gold individual all-around to add to her team gold, and when she goes home to Virginia Beach next week for the first time in two years she’ll do so with new life.
“I’m speechless,” she said. “Words can’t ever describe it. I got to inspire a nation, inspire so many little girls.”
They all did, the headliners and role players alike – Douglas, who reached every dream she ever had; Wieber, who did not; Raisman, who emerged as a three-time medalist, and Ross and McKayla in their roles as role players.
And that’s what was striking, milling about the Adidas Lounge and talking to each of them: This was America’s team, a group of girls who came together and made history because despite their varied individual Olympic accomplishments, each was at her absolute best during team finals.
When they needed teach other, they responded in force.
“I think we’re pretty comparable to the Magnificent Seven in 1996, just coming out with a team gold,” Wieber said. “It’s a pretty amazing thing and I think it’ll go down in history.”
That had been the goal, the task at hand. And everyone – Wieber knows best – who yearned for personal glory still aimed first and foremost for team gold. They become only the second U.S. women’s gymnastics team to achieve it because they were a team before they were anything else.
“Team finals is definitely the most pressure throughout the entire competition,” Wieber said. “It’s three up, three count, you’re expected to go up there and help the routine without any mistakes.”
So now they celebrated, as best utterly exhausted teenagers can. They will go to closing ceremonies Sunday night together. They have been ushered from one obligation to another during the day and stayed up late into the night talking together, remembering, being that team again. They talked Wednesday about each other, and their dreams, and how, come what may, they did this together.
Steve Penny, the president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, looked out at those five Wednesday and marveled.
“This is pretty close to the mountain top,” he said. “It’s hard to get much higher than this.”
Afterward, still in their leotards, still dead tired and still sporting those heavy gold medals, they walked together onto the roof. They put their arms around one another as the cameras clicked, capturing this moment, this togetherness in London.
And behind them, as they smiled and held one another and were a team once more, all of London unfolded below them. It was just the Fierce Five, and their gold medals, and a whole world at their feet.
You can follow Bill Reiter on Twitter or email him at email@example.com.
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