Douglas last in uneven bars

American Gabby Douglas suffered a critical stall as pirouetted on the high bar.
American Gabby Douglas suffered a critical stall as pirouetted on the high bar. –Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

LONDON — United States star Gabby Douglas left the floor without a medal for the first time during these Games, finishing last in the uneven bars Monday.

Though it is her aerodynamic uneven bars routines that earned Douglas her ‘‘Flying Squirrel’’ nickname, a medal was always a long shot. To have a shot in a loaded field of athletes performing high-difficulty routines, Douglas would have needed to be perfect while the others made a slew of mistakes.

Her routine lacked its usual electricity, and she stalled as she pirouetted on the high bar. It was the briefest of hesitations, and she quickly recovered. But she needed every last decimal point she could get, and that cost her a bunch. A step on her dismount didn’t help and, after politely smiling at the judges, she quickly walked off the podium and headed straight for the sidelines and her gym bag. Her score of 14.900 was the lowest in the eight-woman field.

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‘‘I made a little mistake and I paid for it,’’ Douglas said. ‘‘You get toward the end of the Olympics and you get kind of drained . . . I’ve got two gold medals. Overall that’s very good.’’

In the end, Aliya Mustafina stood atop the podium, proudly cradling her gold medal, and watching the Russian flag rise.

She dared not even imagine such a scene six months ago, her left knee aching and the ruthless brilliance that had made her the world’s best gymnast no longer within her command. Yet she refused to give in, to the pain in her body or the doubts in her mind, and the reward now lay upon her chest.

‘‘I am very, very happy I’ve won gold,’’ Mustafina said. ‘‘Every medal represents its own thing.’’

No one could appreciate that better than Beth Tweddle.

Tweddle has been at the forefront of the transformation in British gymnastics, winning every prize there is — except an Olympic medal. She’d come oh, so close four years ago, missing the bronze by a mere 25-100ths of a point, and the devastation almost drove her into retirement.

To finally win a bronze Monday in what is surely the 27-year-old’s last Olympics, in front of an adoring British crowd, was all that mattered and not the color.

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‘‘I tried to say it didn’t matter if I didn’t medal, but I’ve got every other title to my name,’’ Tweddle said. ‘‘I can now say I would have been devastated walking away with no medal. I am going to sleep easy tonight.’’

In men’s competition, Arthur Zanetti gave Brazil its first medal in gymnastics, upsetting ‘‘Lord of the Rings’’ Chen Yibing for the gold on still rings. South Korea’s Yang Hak-seon added Olympic gold to his world title on vault. The Americans went home empty-handed, with Sam Mikulak finishing fifth on vault.

Mustafina was so dominant at the 2010 world championships it seemed impossible she wouldn’t overwhelm the field again in London. She left those worlds with a medal in all but one event, including the all-around gold, and her haughty attitude was as entertaining as her gymnastics skills.

Six months later, however, she blew out her left ACL at the European championships, putting her chances of simply competing in London in doubt.

‘‘Sometimes I did,’’ Mustafina said when asked if she ever considered quitting. ‘‘But these urges left me quickly.’’

She threw herself into her rehab, coming back so quickly she tried to convince her coach she could compete at the world championships last fall.

But there were only glimpses of her old self, and she was downright dismal at this year’s Europeans.

Only Douglas was left, and what slim chance the all-around champion had at a medal ended when she stalled on a handstand. The gold was Mustafina’s, and the Russian could not stop staring at the scoreboard when the final results posted, a proud and satisfied smile on her face.

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