Americans Sweep Women's Gymnastics All-Around At Pan Ams

Monday, July 16th 2007, 5:51 pm
By: News On 6

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ Shawn Johnson, the rising star of U.S. gymnastics, turned in an impeccable balance beam performance to win the gold medal Monday in the women's all-around final at the Pan American Games.

American Rebecca Bross took silver and countrywoman Ivana Hong won bronze in an all-American festival among 24 gymnasts from 10 countries gathered at the Multisport Arena on Rio's west side.

The 15-year-old Johnson, of Des Moines, Iowa, scored 61.725 in competition in floor exercise, the beam, the vault, and uneven bars. That was enough to beat by an impressive .675 margin over Bross with 61.050, while Hong, of Laguna Hills, Calif., finished with 59.375, just .05 in front of Jade Barbosa of the host nation.

``I gave my best and I'm sure I represented my country very well,'' Johnson said. ``The crowd impressed me but, as on Saturday during the team competition, the boos didn't bother me.''

The big absence for the local crowd was Brazilian Daiane dos Santos, the 2003 world champion in floor exercise. Santos hurt her ankle in practice and showed up in a sweat suit but did not compete, as the crowd chanted ``Daiane, Daiane'' and she waved to her fans.

Dos Santos is one of the most electrifying performers on floor exercise today, putting on a show worthy of Carnivale and doing some of the toughest tricks around. One has even been dubbed the ``Dos Santos'' by the International Gymnastics Federation.

The Americans took control of the meet from the opening series of the four separate apparatus. Hong got it started with a 15.575 on the balance beam. At the same time, Bross and Johnson tied for first with 15.100s in floor exercises.

Brazil's Daniele Hypolito, a crowd favorite, missed steps and lost her balance on the floor exercise, where she was the silver medalist at the 2001 world championships. But she recovered to draw roars from the crowd and a respectable 14.600.

The chants of ``Brazil, Brazil'' faded as the Americans took early control of the meet. But Barbosa brought them back in the second round with a stirring floor routine that drew a standing ovation and a 15.025 from the judges.

But it was America's Johnson, the national junior champion, who kept getting high marks with a 15.175 in the vault _ only Barbosa topped that later on with a 15.850. Johnson moved into first place overall after two rotations, while Hong fell to second and Bross was third.

Barbosa came back in the third series with her excellent vault to move into first place, just 0.1 points ahead of Johnson. The American scored just a 15.275 on the uneven bars to drop into second, even though it was the best score of the evening on the bars.

But it was an all-American show at the end. Johnson turned in a 16.175 on the beam _the highest mark of the day on any event _ to take the gold. Bross, of Ann Arbor, Mich., was second highest at 15.925 on the beam to clinch silver, while Hong's 15.575 on the uneven bars completed the American sweep.

Unlike Johnson and Hong, the 14-year-old Bross is a year too young to compete at the 2008 Olympics. Johnson is expected to be a factor at the upcoming U.S. championships and worlds _ and then in Beijing.

The individual apparatus medals will be contested on Tuesday, with the American women against favored in most events.