After she failed to make the all-around finals, the sight of a crying Jordyn Wieber, all muscles in her blue leotard, became the image seen around the world.
But tears were turned to triumph Tuesday, when Wieber and the rest of Team U.S.A.’s “Fab Five” – McKayla Maroney, Alexandra Raisman, Kyla Ross and Gabrielle Douglas – earned a gold medal after their breathtaking floor show. Russia finished second, with Romania getting bronze. This is the first team gold medal in the event since 1996 and the second overall.
“This is really important for a little redemption,” Wieber, 17, told PEOPLE of her fight back from heartbreak. “There was definitely disappointment [earlier this week], but in the end we ended up with this team medal, and I’m the happiest person right now.” (And she shared a photo on Facebook to prove it!)
The People.com blogger had been chosen to lead from the front, and she told PEOPLE, “I knew that it was an important job to be first on vault. I really had to start off the team on a good note and get everyone else excited. I’m happy that I ended up sticking that vault.”
Team USA led at the halfway stage and went into the final rotation at the floor ahead of Russia.
The young women knew they simply had to keep their nerve and get through the floor discipline.
“It feels awesome,” Douglas, 16, told PEOPLE afterward. “I feel blessed right now. For [Jordyn] to pull herself together for team finals. We still needed her. It’s the hardest part when you’re feeling down and gloomy, so my teammates talked to her. She did it, she’s very strong, and I’m so proud of her.”
Wieber told reporters, “I was pretty disappointed, but I knew I had to pull it together mentally for this team. Getting this gold medal was also a goal of mine, so I also had to pull myself together.”
She said Maroney, also 16, helped her: “She gave me a pep talk the night after, and that really helped me.”
Clearly, it paid off for all. The team’s coach John Geddert had a simple conclusion about the women’s victory, calling them the “best team of all time. Others might disagree. Difficulty wise, consistency wise, this is USA’s finest.”