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USA women gymnasts get silver behind China

Beijing, China (Sports Network) - The United States women's gymnastics team picked up a silver medal at the Olympics on Wednesday, finishing behind the powerful Chinese squad.

China finished with a score of 188.9 points to win the Olympic women's team competition for the first time, while the Americans had 186.525. Romania, which earned the team gold four yeas ago in Athens, took the bronze this time around with a score of 181.525.

The U.S., which picked up its second straight silver at the Summer Games, was barely in second going into the fourth and final rotation. Their mark of 142.100 was one point behind China going into the floor exercise, which was the last part of the competition.

Alicia Sacramone was first on floor for the U.S., but fell and also stepped out of bounds for a mark of 14.125. Nastia Liukin had a top mark of 15.200 for the U.S. in the floor, while Shawn Johnson had 15.100. Johnson and Liukin, first and second in the individual all-around qualifying here, also stepped out of bounds.

Sacramone buried her face in her hands in disbelief after the routine, and the gold medal hopes of the Americans were gone.

"I thought there was an advantage because I've been on the international competition scene a long time, but today I guess I let the pressure get to me," said Sacramone. "Today it got the best of me."

The remainder of the U.S. team, Chellsie Memmel, Samantha Peszek and Bridget Sloan, gave a valiant effort, but it just wasn't enough to overtake the Chinese team.

The U.S. finished first on vault and balance beam, but second on bars and third on floor, while China led the way on bars and floor with second-place showings on vault and beam.

Cheng Fei stuck her floor routine with the tune of 15.45, the best mark of the day there, and the remainder of the squad - He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan, Li Shanshan, Yang Yilin and Deng Linlin celebrated at the end.

"This is the most important gold medal," Chinese team coach Lu Shanzhen said. "This proves, once again, the Chinese women's team is the best and most excellent team. Every team member performed well, but it also revealed it's a team effort."

Cheng fell off the balance beam, opening the door for the Americans, but they couldn't take advantage.

China won the men's gymnastics team event the previous day. It's the seventh time in history that a single country has won both team events.

The shortcomings for the U.S. were well-documented on Wednesday. Sacramone scored a 15.100 on the beam, but fell off at the start.

"I snapped pretty crooked on the (spring) board," said Sacramone. "I had one foot on the beam and I stepped back, but there was nothing for my foot to stand on."

The start of that beam routine was delayed by the judges, which may have affected her concentration.

"I thought it could have contributed," she said. "I was pretty nervous, I just let my nerves get to me."

There was still a glimmer of hope by the time the floor exercise began and Liukin had words of encouragement trying to lift up Sacramone, who felt she let her team down.

"She kept telling us she was sorry," said Liukin. "It's hard to know what to say.

"We knew we had to hit three out of three (on beam) to get back on rack, and I think she took it too much on herself."

If the three U.S. women landed perfect routines on floor combined with a slip- up from the Chinese, there was a shot at gold. It wasn't to be.

Sacramone's feet slipped from under her after a tumble and she landed on her back, and a short time later stepped out of bounds, almost ensuring the Chinese the gold.

"We worked hard and we very prepared," said Marta Karolyi, coordinator of the U.S. women's team. "Unfortunately, we made two mistakes. You can't win gold with two mistakes."

The individual all-around final will be Friday, followed by apparatus finals from Aug. 17-19.

08/13 03:31:55 ET