- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 10, 2008

BEIJING — Despite having two injured gymnasts limited to a single event, the United States womens gymnastics team got all-around performances from Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin and trails China by 1.475 points entering Wednesday’s team finals.

Johnson and Liukin qualified for the all-around competition later in the week and Alicia Sacramone is a likely qualifier in the vault.

During the warm up, Samantha Peszek, who was going to lead off in three of the four events, injured her left ankle on a floor pass.

“We had some tension finishing up so that was a tiny bit of disturbance at the last moment,” national team coordinator Martha Karolyi said.

Just a tiny bit.

Because Chellsie Memmel’s ankle also limited her to one event, the Americans walked into the arena with four healthy gymnasts. In the qualification stage, a team can use five gymnasts on each event and use the four best scores.

Peszek’s injury combined with Memmel’s existing condition meant the U.S. had no room for error in all but one event. Both gymnasts did compete on the uneven bars.

The positive for the Americans was the 1-2 punch of Johnson and Liukin finishing their sessions with the top two all-around scores.

The negatives were Sacramone committing a major foul when she nearly landed out of bounds — and quickly both feet were over the line — in floor exercise (her best event) and two miscues on uneven bars: Memmel being unable to grab the high bar and falling and Liukin falling backward on her landing.

“As a team, they have a very good spirit and the girls are wanting to do this,” coach Laing Chow said. “We made some mistakes today, but this is only a start. I don’t feel disappointed with our performance.”

Said Johnson: “We wanted to show that after Sam’s injury, we won’t stay down. We jumped right back up and were strong.”

Johnson, Liukin and Bridget Sloan competed in all four events. The U.S. was better than China in the vault and balance beam. The Chinese lead was mostly due to a 1.525-point advantage in the parallel bars.

The format for the finals could benefit the U.S. Only three gymnasts per team compete on an event and all three scores count. If Johnson and Liukin stay on their game, the Americans could catch the host.

For more on women’s gymnastics, read Monday’s Washington Times.

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