NEW YORK — Jordyn Wieber kicked off her Olympic year with a victory and might have found a new threat to her gold medal hopes.
The reigning world champion captured her third American Cup at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, finishing with a score of 61.032 to beat teammate Aly Raisman by two-tenths of a point in the first major prep for the London Games. Wieber joins Mary Lou Retton as the only woman to win three American Cup titles.
Yet it was Gabrielle Douglas who stole the spotlight.
Competing as an alternate, making her ineligible for the all-around title, Douglas outperformed her more celebrated teammates, putting up a combined score of 61.299 points, nearly two-tenths ahead of Wieber.
It was a stunning performance by Douglas – dubbed “the flying squirrel” by U.S. women’s national team coordinator Martha Karolyi – and attached a big asterisk to Wieber’s triumph.
In the men’s event, American Danell Leyva roared back from a slow start to win, surging from fourth to first in the final rotation with a thrilling high bar performance. Leyva finished with a score of 90.664, just ahead of Ukraine’s Mykola Kuksenkov.
Britain’s Daniel Purvis placed third, while American John Orozco’s return to his hometown failed to produce a storybook finish.
The 19-year-old from the Bronx slogged his way through his first three events and finished fifth, blunting the momentum gained during a dominant victory at the Winter Cup in Las Vegas in February.
The opening ceremony in London is 146 days away, and there’s plenty of work to do.
Wieber hopes to follow in the footsteps of Retton, Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin, all of whom used an American Cup win as a springboard to Olympic gold.
Though Wieber showed poise under pressure, it was Douglas who just lit up the Garden.
She showed she’s eager to compete on the sport’s biggest stage with a dynamic performance that will resonate over the next four months as Karolyi determines which five gymnasts will go to London.