Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, Kyla Ross, Aly Raisman, and McKayla Maroney struck gold for U.S. women's gymnastics on Tuesday, not once faltering as they trounced runner-up Russia by five points — as lopsided a victory as you can get in the sport. Fans are calling the squad everything from the "Fab Five" to the "Fierce Five," the nickname the girls like best, and comparing them to the legendary "Magnificent Seven" team from 1996. "Others might disagree," said coach John Geddert. "But this is the best team. Difficulty-wise, consistency-wise, this is the USA's finest." Here, four reasons the 2012 team is being viewed as historically peerless:
1. They're stronger all-around than the Magnificent Seven
The 1996 team's biggest strength was its depth, says Jerry Hinnen at CBS Sports, with Kerri Strug, Dominique Dawes, Dominique Moceanu, and Jaycie Phelps all putting up key scores on individual apparatuses on their way to the gold. But the 2012 edition simply has "three of the world's top four or five all-around gymnasts" in their lineup with Douglas, Raisman, and Wieber. With that kind of firepower, "the only team that could really dream of beating them was themselves."
2. A five-point victory is unheard of
As Hinnen points out, in 1996 the Americans beat the Russians by less than a point (0.82). This year's win more than sextupled the gap. "Winning a gymnastics meet by five full points? That might as well be the Saints clobbering the Colts 62-7," says Bob Kravitz at Indystar. The Fierce Five's lead was so insurmountable that by the time they got to their final event, the floor routine, "they could have sat in the middle of the mat and read a good book, and still won by a comfortable margin."
3. Their confidence was unshakable
"Between winning world championships last year and now the Olympics, this U.S. team has hit 56 out of 56 routines, never falling once," says Lindsey Green at New York. Meanwhile, the Russian team fell apart on Tuesday, thanks to a "massive error" from Anastasia Grishina and what many are calling a bona fide disaster for current world floor champion Ksenia Afanasyeva, "who crumbled to a heap after her final tumbling pass." The U.S. women were unflappable, says CBS News' Hinnen. While the U.S. men's team crumbled under the weight of expectations after finishing on top during qualifications, the Fierce Five brushed off pressure like "meager dirt on their shoulders."
4. They didn't need a miracle
This was "complete, gorgeous dominance," says Sally Jenkins at The Washington Post. "It was the best collective performance from the Americans ever, better even than that Bela Karolyi-coached 1996 squad led by Kerri Strug." Remember: The 1996 team needed Strug's "iconic final vault to win gold," says CBS News' Hinnen. "The 1996 team was the best in the world. The 2012 team is the best in the world [now], and it's not close."