LONDON - One by one, the Americans thundered down the runway, soared high above the vault and slammed into the mat.
Boom! Boom! Boom! When the fireworks were over, so was everybody else's chance for the gold medal.
The Americans lived up to their considerable hype and then some Tuesday night, routing silver medalist Russia and everybody else on their way to their first Olympic title in women's gymnastics since 1996. Their score of 183.596 was a whopping five points better than Russia's, and set off a debate over whether this is the best U.S. team of all time. Romania won the bronze.
"Others might disagree. The '96 team might disagree. But this is the best team," U.S. coach John Geddert said.
The Americans didn't botch a single routine, and all but three of their 12 scores were 15.0 or higher. The Russians, on the other hand, had just one score above 15 in their last two events as they unraveled down the stretch. They sat on the sidelines sniffling and watching glumly as the Americans turned their final event, floor exercise, into a coronation.
When the final standings flashed, chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" rocked the arena, and the U.S. women, who backed up to get a better view of the scoreboard, held up their index fingers for the cameras - in case anyone had a doubt.
"The feeling was incredible," world champion Jordyn Wieber said. "To have this gold medal around your neck, it's really an indescribable feeling."