LONDON -- American McKayla Maroney won a silver on vault after a rare fall Sunday.
Maroney, the defending world champion on vault, was considered a lock for the gold, which would have given the U.S. women three in the first three gymnastics events. She won her world title last year by almost a half-point and topped qualifying at these games by a similar margin.
"I wasn't focused on getting a gold medal," the 16-year-old said. "I just wanted to prove to everybody that I could hit two vaults and I could try to do my best for USA."
Her first vault was the difficult Amanar -- a round-off onto the takeoff board, back handspring onto the table and 2.5 twisting somersaults before landing. She got such great height off the table the fans in the first few rows had to look up to see her. She took a hop on her landing, and came down out of bounds. But even with that 0.3 deduction, Maroney still scored 15.866, including a whopping 9.666 for execution.
Another vault like that, and the gold was hers. But she appeared to land the second one on the back of her heels, and her feet slid out from under her. Maroney fell to the mat with a loud "plop!" drawing a gasp from the crowd.
"I kind of felt it right away when I didn't get my full block," she said. "It was a little bit off, and I just kind of stuck with it. I really didn't know how to change it at that point."
She scored 14.3, giving her an average of 15.083. Maroney looked shell-shocked as Sandra Izbasa of Romania did two impressive vaults to claim the gold.
"I already knew that I pretty much only had the silver medal," Maroney said. "I really didn't deserve to win a gold medal if I fall on my butt."