As the men’s team was trying to keep the crowd amped up, chanting USA and doing the wave, Steve Penny walked out onto the floor. The moment everyone had been waiting for was at hand. The announcement of our US Women’s Olympic Team. At the same time he was walking out onto the floor, 14 girls were crowded into a room, waiting to hear their fate. Aly Raisman said in an interview with Gymnastike that Martha cried a bit and said it was a really hard decision for her, then got on with naming the team.
Gabby Douglas. Jordyn Wieber. Aly Raisman. McKayla Maroney. Kyla Ross.
Out on the floor, Steve Penny got to it much faster. He announced the names in rapid fire, one after the other. The girls were regrouping, trying to absorb the incredible news that the dream they had worked their whole lives for was coming true. With tears streaming down most of their faces, they grabbed their flowers and ran out onto the floor.
Then the alternates were called. Sarah Finnegan. Anna Li. Elizabeth Price. They bounded out onto the floor, joining the rest of the team. The men’s team, announced minutes earlier, joined them as well. Gold ribbon shot into the air from edges of the floor. Red, white and blue confetti shoot from a cannon in a constant stream like water coming from a fire hose. And the crowd roared. The deafening noise of sold out arena could be felt as much as heard. They all huddled in a circle. USA, USA, USA. They gathered confetti and threw it in the air.
As the celebration continued on the floor, the girls who dreams did not come true trickled out. Bela and Martha Karoyli went around to each one, Martha firmly holding their head and looking straight into their eyes, her trademark as she focuses in on each individual. A touching moment as both Bela and Martha huddled around Nastia. Valeri hugging Rebecca Bross. Nastia and Valeri sharing a brief hug and kiss. Sabrina Vega unable to hold back the tears, crying openly as people one by one came around to comfort her. Rebecca Bross mostly holding back the tears but showing some emotion here and there.
Eventually things died down inside the HP Pavillion, but the partying continued outside at the AT&T block party. First the men were up on stage, talking to the crowd. After they made their way off the stage, music blared as everyone waited for the women to come out. Behind the stage, the men got up on top of their bus and danced to “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” The families were off to the side of the stage celebrating and waiting for the girls to come out along with the crowd.
Rita Wieber was the first to spot them and started cheering and clapping. Jordyn blew cute, excited kisses to her family just before she walked on to the stage. Then she adjusted Aly’s jacket, making them all presentable. They interviewed Gabby for a bit and then the men joined them on the stage. The crowd lit their candles (passed out earlier), and everyone held them up in the air as Kenny Loggins sang “America The Beautiful”.
The girls headed off the stage and some insistent fans convinced Kyla Ross to come sign autographs as everyone else got into the van. An official finally pulled her away from her adoring fans and they drove off. As I walked away from the night, girls were desperately trying to get pictures with Jordyn’s brother Ryan – the original owner of the Wieber Fever moniker.
The live announcement of the Olympic team, the overwhelming emotions of celebrating with those who made it and crying with those who didn’t is a feeling, a moment in time, that I will not soon forget. And one that I am so very grateful I was able to experience. Thanks to USA Gymnastics, San Jose and all the gymnasts, coaches and fans who made it possible.