TOKYO — Jordyn Wieber leaned against coach John Geddert, unhappiness and a bit of anger on her face.
A mistake on uneven bars, and a smaller one on floor exercise, had likely cost her the title at the world gymnastics championships.
"I told her I was proud of her no matter what," Geddert said. "She was mad because that mistake on bars was going to cost her, and she knew it."
Then the final results posted, and that silver Wieber was so sure she'd won suddenly turned to gold.
"I was so surprised to see my name up on the top, but I was so happy at the same time," said Wieber, who burst into tears when she saw the standings. "It was an amazing feeling."
Not so for Viktoria Komova.
The Russian led by four-tenths of a point going into the final event Thursday night, and was the only one in the top five who did not make a mistake. Yet she still came up short, unable to match Wieber's difficulty or the American's commanding presence. Komova gasped and her hands flew to her face when she saw the final results, and she stood sullenly on the medals podium as the "Star-Spangled Banner" played.
Wieber, of DeWitt, Mich., finished with 59.382 points, just 0.033 points ahead of Komova.
"I'm very disappointed," Komova said through a translator. "It was not enough for a gold medal. I'm very upset."
Make no mistake, though, this won't be the last go-round between these two 16-year-olds. There is more gold to be had next summer in London.
"It's definitely a great challenge," Wieber said. "It makes you work a little bit harder every day in the gym knowing that you want it just as bad as she does. It gives you a little more motivation when you're training."
Wieber is the sixth American to win the world title, joining Kim Zmeskal, Shannon Miller, Chellsie Memmel, Shawn Johnson and Bridget Sloan. This was her second gold at worlds, having led the U.S. women to the team title on Tuesday night. She's not done, having qualified for event finals on balance beam, floor exercise and uneven bars.
Komova has also qualified for those three event finals.
While the ending Thursday may have been a surprise, the teenagers involved were not. Wieber has lost one – count 'em, one – competition in the last three years, and opened this season by beating last year's world champion Aliya Mustafina at the American Cup, her first meet as a senior. Komova, the daughter of two gymnasts, is long and lithe with a ballerina's grace and elegance, yet packs surprising power. She won the European junior title last year, then took the first Youth Olympic Games title.
But Komova hurt her ankle walking through the gym in December, and the injury cost her most of this year. She insisted on Thursday that she's back to normal, but her difficulty levels are not – and it left her with too big of a disadvantage to overcome against Wieber.
"I don't think it's back 100 percent yet," Geddert said. "With a little more training and a little more rehab under her belt, she's going to be a monster."
Ahead of Komova by a point after vault, the first event, Wieber gave the lead back and then some with her error on uneven bars. As the American pirouetted on the high bar, she seemed to lose rhythm and it threw her off when she flipped to the low bar. She didn't fall, but she swayed as if being blown by a stiff breeze and her score of 13.6 was more than a point below what she did in qualifying.
Komova's routine, on the other hand, was almost flawless. She appears to float between the bars, and the smoothness with which she does her skills masks their incredible difficulty. Her dismount – two back somersaults with a twist – was acrobatic, yet she landed it with daintiness.
With a score of 15.4, Komova moved ahead of Wieber by a little more than a point midway through the night.
"We thought everything is lost, but Jordyn is such a strong person," U.S. team coordinator Martha Karolyi said. "She's just somebody with real special abilities who is able to fight back as strong as she did. Most people get very disappointed and distracted by a mistake, but she didn't."
Instead, Wieber responded with a dazzling routine on balance beam. Imagine doing a back somersault followed by a back handspring. Make your palms sweat? Now imagine doing it 4 feet in the air. On a 4-inch slab of wood. But Wieber did it with the ease of a cartwheel. On flat ground.
Her score of 15.266 was the highest of the night on balance beam – and third-highest overall – and cut Komova's lead to less than a half-point going into the final rotation. With Wieber's floor having a start value three-tenths of a point higher than Komova's, it was going to be close.
Using big tumbling passes, she looked like a rubber ball as she bounced from one element to another. But it's her sassiness that leaves the audience – and judges – wanting more, mesmerizing the arena with a wiggle of her hips and a flick of her wrist.
Her only flaw was a big step out of bounds on her third tumbling pass. With Komova in the lead and still to come, it was an error she couldn't afford. Wieber was clearly irritated when she came off the podium.
"She's going to go out there and give you 100 percent every time out," Geddert said. "You can't ask for any more out of a kid or an athlete, that's for sure."
Komova didn't make any mistakes on floor, and her routine was pretty. But it didn't have Wieber's pizazz, and judges marked her accordingly with an execution score that was almost three-tenths lower than the American's. Combine that with the lower start value, and it was enough to give Wieber the gold.
China's Yao Jinnan won the bronze medal. Aly Raisman of the United States was fourth.
"When the score came up and the USA crowd started going crazy, she burst into tears and I kind of joined her a little bit," Geddert said. "What a dramatic – that was a movie right there. You can't ask for anything more than that."
Except maybe the Olympic title, something no reigning world champion has won since Lilia Podkopayeva in 1996.
"It hasn't quite sunk in yet," Wieber said. "Probably after a couple of hours it will start to sink in. I'll look back at my performance and be really happy."