BEIJING The American women are stockpiling more precious metal than a jeweler. The Chinese men have quite the stash, too, though they're only interested in gold.
Two days after going 1-2 in the all-around, Olympic champion Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson added to their collection on Sunday. Johnson won the silver on floor exercise, while Liukin took the bronze. Throw in the silvers they won in the team competition, and the Americans have three gymnastics medals each.
"Of course when you're training your whole life to get to the Olympics, you train for gold," Johnson said. "But honestly, a silver around my neck three times at the Olympics means more to me than anything."
The Chinese men, meanwhile, don't leave the warm-up gym unless there's some gold to be gotten.
Xiao Qin took the gold on pommel horse, hardly a surprise considering he's won the last three world titles in the event, while little Zou Kai took advantage of errors by favorites Diego Hypolito and Marian Dragulescu to win the floor exercise. China has won all four men's gold medals up for grabs so far.
"I am not as excited as I was when I won the men's team gold medal," who Xiao, who saluted and sang along when the Chinese anthem played, "because we finally released the pressure that had built up for so many years."
Romania's Sandra Izbasa won the women's floor title while Hong Un Jong took gold on vault.
The U.S. women didn't come to the Beijing Games with quite the same pressure as the Chinese men, who have won seven of the last eight world titles, but had only one Olympic gold to go with it. Still, when you strut in as world champs and have the two best gymnasts, people expect you to bring home some jewelry.
Oh, they're bringing it, all right. In every shade.
"An Olympic medal is an Olympic medal," Liukin said. "Now I have the full collection."
Johnson looked as if she might finally get her gold on floor, where she is the reigning world champion. Though she went first, when scores tend to be lower, she set quite a standard. Her opening tumbling run was monstrous, sending her soaring so far into the air she could have gotten points in trampoline. Yet she stuck her landing, hitting the mat with such a solid thud it could be heard around the arena.
Johnson had a few missteps a shaky landing here, a wobble on a dance move but her smile grew brighter with each second. When she finished, she looked straight at a TV camera and waved. Her score of 15.5 was solid only her floor score in the all-around final was better and she took a seat next to coach Liang Chow to see if it would hold up.
One by one, her rivals faltered. Brazil's Daiane Dos Santos went out of bounds twice. Anna Pavlova of Russia landed her last tumbling pass on her knees. Cheng Fei, the 2006 world champion on floor, had a dismal showing, her feet slipping out from her on the landing of one tumbling run and stumbling on another.
The mistakes left her so upset, she leaned against the vault podium, her back to the floor, her shoulders shaking. When she finally turned around, her face was wet with tears. With a 14.550, Cheng not only didn't medal, she wasn't even close to contention.
"I felt for her," Johnson said. "To make it here and make a mistake is hard, but she did a great job. No matter what, she's one of the most respected gymnasts out there."
Liukin's routine was lyrical as always, but it didn't have quite the same sparkle as she did in the all-around final. Her score of 15.425 put her and Johnson 1-2 again but there was still one more competitor left.
"I knew (Izbasa) had beaten me in prelims, so I was a little more nervous," Johnson said.
And once Izbasa began to tumble and twirl, Johnson knew the gold was gone.
Tall like Liukin, the Romanian makes the most of her long lines. Her leaps were like a ballerina's grand jete, and her flips were done with the ease of a cartwheel. She was in perfect sync with her music, and the audience was applauding as she finished.
So, too, was Johnson.
"I had a little bit of hope inside me, but seeing how beautifully she did her routine I knew," Johnson said. "Sandra really deserved to win."
Izbasa is the second straight Romanian to win the Olympic floor title. She cried on the medals podium, and that was before her cell phone started buzzing with a call from Romanian president Traian Basescu.
"I was in my best form today," Izbasa said later. "I feel so good."
American Alicia Sacramone wasn't feeling so hot after the vault. Neither was Cheng, even though she wound up with a bronze medal.
Cheng is a three-time world champion on vault, and hadn't been beaten on the event in three years. But she didn't get enough height on her push off the board to complete her forward somersault with 1 1/2 twists, and landed the vault her second on her knees. Yet because her vaults are so difficult both had start values of 6.5 she still wound up ahead of Sacramone, who made no major errors.
"I can't change her scores," Sacramone said. "The judges made up their minds."
Cheng's mistake opened the door for the feel-good medal of the night.
Oksana Chusovitina is 33, ancient in "women's" gymnastics. This is her fifth Olympics, but first for Germany, where she moved in 2002 so her son could be treated for leukemia. Alisher is now 9 and a budding gymnast. And his mom? She keeps showing the young kids how it's done, winning her first individual medal at the Olympics, a silver on vault.
"The medal is for my son," Chusovitina said.
The Chinese men are so dominant, the only drama in Sunday night's events was on pommel horse, where a tiebreaker determined the silver and bronze medalists.
Xiao is normally flawless, his legs ramrod straight, his hands a blur as they move around the horse in perfect rhythm. But as he worked on one end of the horse, he actually made a mistake and his legs flew apart. That's the kind of thing that would take most other gymnasts down, but Xiao kept right on going, straight for gold.
"I was very nervous when I was watching the other gymnasts competing after me," Xiao said. "This is a competition, so two or three mistakes are pretty common. However, I was struggling during that 10 minutes. I was worried that I couldn't get the gold medal."
He needn't have.
Croatia's Filip Ude and Louis Smith of Britain finished .15 points behind Xiao, both with 15.725. The tiebreaker the execution score gave Ude the silver and Smith the bronze. It was Croatia's first-ever gymnastics medal and Britain's first since the men's team bronze in 1912.
Hypolito and Dragulescu, who have won the last three world floor titles, were the heavy favorites to win gold. But Hypolito was way too short on his final landing and stumbled backward, ending his chances for a medal of any color. He looked shellshocked and his body shook as he sat on the sidelines. As he left the arena, someone he knew reached out to hug him and Hypolito's brave front crumbled. He buried his head in the woman's shoulder and sobbed.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry to all the Brazilians," Hypolito said.
Olympic gold is the only medal Dragulescu has never won, and he came up short again after he nearly landed one of his tumbling runs on his backside. That left the door open for Zou, who zipped through a series of pretzel-like twists and lightning-quick somersaults. He ran off the podium when he was finished, pumping his fist at the crowd that was chanting "Jia You!" an almost constant chant with so much Chinese success.
Gervasio Deferr of Spain won the silver, and Anton Golotsutskov of Russia took the bronze.
"I felt pressured," Zou said. "But I also felt there was hope for me to win."
And keep adding to that pile of medals.