LONDON The Americans grabbed hands and backed up, eager to get a better view of the scoreboard.
There was really no need. That Olympic gold medal was in the bag the minute they took the floor.
The Americans lived up to their considerable hype and then some Tuesday night, routing Russia and everybody else on their way to their first Olympic title since 1996. Their score of 183.596 was a whopping five points ahead of Russia, and they were so far ahead their last event, floor exercise, was more like a coronation.
With the Russians on the sidelines crying, the Americans stood at the center of the flow, clapping, cheering and basking in a golden glow. When the score for captain Aly Raisman flashed, the Americans screamed and a chant of U-S-A! U-S-A! rang out around the arena. The women held up their index fingers for the cameras just in case anyone had a doubt.
The Americans had come into the last two Olympics as world champions, only to leave without a gold. But this team is the strongest, top to bottom, the USA has ever had, and the rest of the world never stood a chance. After the U.S. opened with a barrage of booming vaults, everyone else was playing for silver.