McKayla Maroney, a 15-year-old from Laguna Hills and a first-year competitor for the United States at the senior level of gymnastics, won her second gold medal at the world championships in Tokyo on Friday night.
After helping the United States women win the team gold medal earlier in the week, Maroney won individual gold in the vault event final.
Maroney's two vaults averaged a score of 15.3 and gave her a solid win over silver medalist Oksana Chusovitina, a 36-year-old from Germany, who won the silver medal. Thi Ha Thanh Phan of Vietnam won the bronze.
"I was really calm," Maroney said by telephone from Tokyo after the medal celebration. "I didn't worry, I just felt really good going out there."
Maroney said she didn't cry during the medal ceremony but she said her U.S. teammates gave her a hard time. "They said I wasn't smiling," she said. "I think I was smiling. I felt like I was smiling. I don't know, it is just so great."
Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics, said the international judges made a point of praising Maroney's skills and form on her vaults, both in the individual event final and during team preliminaries and finals. "She was really electrifying," Penny said, "not only impressing the people in the crowd but for the judges. Members of the technical committee said they were impressed by every one of her vaults."
It is the third year in a row an American has won the world championship vault gold medal. Alicia Sacramone, who tore her Achilles' tendon while training in Japan on Oct. 6, won last year and Kayla Williams won two years ago.
Sacramone, who flew home to Massachusetts to have surgery, congratulated Maroney via Twitter.
"So proud you kept it in the country! thats my girl!" Sacramone tweeted.
-- Diane Pucin
Photo: McKayla Maroney sticks a landing in the women's vault event final Friday night at the world championships in Tokyo. Credit: Koji Sasahara / Associated Press