On Tuesday, the U.S. women's gymnastics team was nothing short of dominant, winning the gold medal in team competition by a shattering margin. In an Olympic milieu controlled by Michael Phelps and LeBron James, the American gymnasts stole the show, putting out one of London's most signature performances.
Just how important was this win for Team USA? And how does it stack up to the rest of London 2012?
American gymnastics continue to skyrocket through national media. Last month, Team USA enjoyed the cover of Sports Illustrated, and Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber have all seen surges in popularity. Could 2012 launch women's gymnastics the way '08 sprung men's swimming?
Tuesday marked the first team gold medal for the American women since 1996. Tagged as the "Magnificent Seven," Shannon Miller and company claimed the top prize in Atlanta on the back of a memorable vault from the injured Kerri Strung.
Today, with Douglas also winning the all-around individual gold and Raisman swiftly becoming one of the Olympics' most recognizable names, could the Seven be dethroned?
This year's team is drawing hordes of new fans and developing its own unique culture. Douglas will have another shot at gold in the uneven bars final on August 6, while Raisman can avenge Thursday's tough tiebreaker loss in the floor and beam finals on August 7.
The women's gymnastics team has found a way to command conversation, generating more fervor and storylines than the most popular American team, U.S. men's basketball. American coach John Geddert, with impressive candor, calls his gymnasts "the best team of all time."
A 5.066 margin of victory is unprecedented in the sport. Team USA ranked first, second and third in Tuesday's vault scores; their floor routines were nothing short of impeccable.
For a sport that's reluctantly evaded the limelight for well over a decade now, this summer means everything. Douglas's two golds already keeps her in line with Phelps, fellow swimmers Ryan Lochte and Dana Volmer for tops in America.
And unlike the impending pressures and expectations that engulf basketball, and the brewing internal rivalry in men's swimming, the women's team is controversy-free. It's a feel-good story headlined by Raisman's marketable face.
The unusual juxtaposition of grace and raw emotion on this team continues to entice fans across the globe. After falling to silver in 2008's team competition, the U.S. knocked off a rival Chinese team and asserted its dominance.
Despite Phelps' record-breaking 20th medal, and regardless of what the Team USA basketball squad is able to accomplish in the coming days, this gymnastics team has been a genuine show-stealer. Could a post-London national tour be in the works? Will the soaring Raisman continue to grip the public?
Time will tell. For now, this summer remains to be a momentous occasion for a once-waning sport. The star power of Douglas and Raisman will be tested next week, and you can bet good money that Americans everywhere will be watching.
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