| Chellsie Memmel of the US on the uneven bars during the women’s team final at the world gymnastics championships in Anaheim on Wednesday. (AFP)
Anaheim: The US rode a wave of emotion and fervent home support to capture their first ever gold medal in the women’s team event at the world championships on Wednesday.
The Americans’ hopes appeared to be in disarray this week when celebrated trio Courtney Kupets, Ashley Postell and Annia Hatch — all world championship medallists — withdrew through injury and illness.
But a makeshift quintet — inspired by late stand-in Chellsie Memmel and with an average age of 16 — did its absent friends proud by posting a total of 112.573 points.
Romania — seven-time world team winners and champions for the last five competitions dating back to 1994 — had to be content with silver (110.833).
Australia claimed the bronze, their first-ever team medal at a world championships, in dramatic fashion, pushing China into fourth place by 0.076 of a point after the Chinese endured a nightmare last two rotations.
They had 0.2 points deducted from their total after Fan Ye was penalised for warming up on the podium prior to her balance beam routine.
Then Kang Xin and Zhang Nan were marked down for poor floor routines in the last rotation, allowing Australia to capitalise.
There was more drama provided by perennial favourites Russia.
Led by multiple world and Olympic champion Svetlana Khorkina, they had a miserable night and a total of 108.985 was enough only for sixth place — the first time Russia had failed to win a medal since 1995.
Fifteen-year-old Americans Memmel and Carly Patterson set the tone for the US with strong vaults on the first rotation.
Then, even though Holly Vise suffered a nasty fall from the asymmetric bars, Memmel and 18-year-old Tasha Schwikert combined to move the home nation into first place.
On Tuesday, China won the men’s team gold with a total of 171.996 points.
The US secured their second successive silver medal with 171.121, while Belgium, landed a creditable bronze with 170.708.