Johnson wins floor silver, Liukin bronze

Beijing 2008

August 18, 2008|By Los Angeles Times

BEIJING - Nastia Liukin is having so much fun at these Olympics, she says she might stick around and compete again next year at the world championships.

Shawn Johnson won't look beyond tomorrow's balance-beam final, her last chance to win a gold medal.

Johnson won the silver medal in yesterday's floor exercise competition, her third silver medal of the Olympics, and it was a bittersweet finish for the defending world champion who had to compete first among the eight finalists and then watch and wait.

"It's been draining," Johnson said. "I've given everything I've got. I tried so hard tonight."

Liukin took the bronze, a triumph for the 18-year-old who has spent the past year trying to improve an event that had been a weakness.

Romania's Sandra Izbasa won the gold. The last competitor of the night, she performed her routine without an obvious flaw - even Johnson said so - with every landing unwavering. Izbasa's score of 15.650 edged Johnson's 15.500 and bronze medalist Liukin's 15.425.

The win also earned Izbasa a call from Romania's president.

Before Izbasa started to compete, former U.S. coach Bela Karolyi muttered, "Watch, Santa Claus is coming for Romania," meaning he thought Izbasa would receive a gift. But Izbasa's routine had a higher degree of difficulty than expected, and the Romanian's performance was a perky punctuation to a night that saw as much disappointment as excitement.

China's most veteran female competitor, Cheng Fei, 20, the three-time defending world vault champion, landed one of her attempts on her knees and settled for bronze.

Then she had a fall on her floor exercise that caused her to walk off the mat in tears.

Diego Hypolito, who was favored to become the first Brazilian male to win an Olympic gymnastics medal with his flashy floor exercise routine, instead took a hard fall and still seemed stunned 30 minutes later.

Alicia Sacramone, 20, also was red-eyed. She finished fourth on the vault, which was won by North Korea's Hong Un Jung.

Sacramone and her coach, Mihai Brestyan, questioned how Cheng finished third ahead of Sacramone despite the fall.

"Cheng didn't land the last vault," Brestyan said. "I think Alicia deserved the bronze."

Liukin, however, was thrilled to win her third Olympic medal.

She now has gold (all-around), silver (team) and bronze. She wants two more so she can say she has more Olympic medals than her father and coach, Valeri, who has four. Liukin still has two events - her signature uneven bars routine today and the balance beam, where she is defending world champion, tomorrow.

China won both men's event finals, with Kai Zou taking the gold on floor exercise, Spain's Gervasio Deferr getting the silver and Russia's Anton Golotsutskov the bronze, and Qin Xiao getting the gold on pommel horse over Croatia's Ude Filip and Britain's Louis Smith.

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