It might not have all been pretty, but the Russian women’s team made history when they won the team gold medal in Rotterdam, sealed by the magnificent Aliya Mustafina on floor exercise in the final event. Following two missed routines on uneven bars, the talented mix of veterans and rookies pulled together and hit six strong routines on beam and floor to edge the United States by just two tenths.
Amidst several rumored comebacks from 2008 Olympians Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, Chellsie Memmel, and Samantha Peszek – none of which came to pass in 2009 or 2010 – fellow Olympian Alicia Sacramone was in the gym quietly regaining the best shape of her life. She roared back into competition at this year’s Covergirl Classic and USA Nationals looking better than she did in Beijing, and then helped lead the USA squad to a world team silver medal behind Russia. She then erased two of her nightmares from Beijing – her fall on beam in the team final and 4th place finish in the vault finals – by nailing all three of her beam routines in Rotterdam and winning her first ever world vault championship.
The popular Aussie gymnast established herself as one to watch with silver medals on both beam and floor at the 2009 worlds, but in Rotterdam it appeared she was going to leave medal-less after finishing 6th with her team, 6th in the all-around, and a controversial 4th in the beam final. As the final competitor on the final event of the world championships, Lauren Mitchell nailed a strong, clean routine and won the first world gold medal ever by an Australian woman.
The 25-year-old British star has been one of the top bar workers in the world for the last eight years, but had only won the world title once – in 2006. After just missing out on medals in 2007 and 2008, Beth failed to make the bars final at last year’s worlds with a mistake in the preliminaries, leaving Chinese sensation He Kexin unchallenged. When Kexin faltered in this year’s final, the gold was up for grabs, and Beth seized the moment by hitting one of the most difficult and innovative bar routines in history.
Mattie Larson was a 2008 Olympic contender who was forced out of the race to Beijing with an injury, and then continued on a cycle of injuries for the next two years. Like Sacramone, her return to competition at the Covergirl Classic and USA Nationals was spectacular, highlighted by the best floor routine of her entire career on Day 2 of the nationals in Hartford. Though she would go on to make errors at her first worlds in Rotterdam, her routine here en route to her national all-around silver will be remembered for years to come.