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Alicia Sacramone's back -- the no-longer-retired gymnast wins her first vault world championship gold medal

October 23, 2010 |  2:37 pm

Sacramone_300 Alicia Sacramone, who retired after the 2008 Olympics when her fall on the balance beam left her in tears and the U.S. unable to overcome the Chinese team for the gold medal, is back in a big way.

At the world championships in Rotterdam, Holland, on Saturday, the 22-year-old Sacramone, who was part of the U.S. team that won the silver medal behind Russia earlier in the week, won her first-ever vault world championship gold medal. Sacramone, of Winchester, Mass., scored 15.200, the average of her two vault scores. She is only the second U.S. woman to win a world vault title and has accumulated four world vault medals overall and nine world championship medals, which ties her with Shannon Miller and Nastia Liukin for having won the most world championship medals.

Sacramone had to wait 30 tense minutes though before her win was confirmed. The coaches of Russia's Aliya Mustafina, who had already won two gold medals during this competition -- team and individual all-around -- protested the downgrading of Mustafina's second vault. The difficulty score of the Russians' second vault was lowered from what had been submitted before the vault. 

Mustafina ended up with silver and Brazil's Jade Barbosa with bronze.

Sacramone, who trains at Brestyan's American Gymnastics, first performed a front handspring Rudi, with a hop on the landing, for a 15.400. Her second vault was a Yurchenko double, which earned a 15.000. Mustafina's combined score was 15.066 and Barbosa had 14.799.

Rebecca Bross, the 16-year-old American who won the all-around bronze as well as a team silver so far, collected her second bronze medal of the meet with her third-place finish on the uneven bars. Britain's Beth Tweedle won. Big favorite He Kexin of China, whose age eligibility in Beijing had been highly debated and who won the Olympic uneven bars gold over Liukin even though both finished with the same score, fell and finished out of the medals.

For those who get the Universal Sports channel, a broadcast of Saturday's event finals begins at 5 p.m. PDT.

Sacramone will have another chance at redemption Sunday. She has qualified for the balance beam final and will try to reprise her ill-fated Olympic routine.

"I am glad to be back representing the U.S.," Sacramone said. "To walk away like I did after the Olympics, with so many injuries and being disheartened after the Olympics, it's nice to set my mind to something, work hard and come back and get a big reward for all the work that I've done. It makes it worthwhile. I've got a silver and a couple of bronze [medals], so it's nice to complete my collection of vault medals."

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: American Alicia Sacramone with her gold medal after winning the women's vault at the world championships. Credit: Dylan Martinez / Reuters