MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – With four gold medals, four silvers and a bronze, the American women’s gymnastics team was on top of the world Down Under.

Led by Nastia Liukin, Chellsie Memmel and Alicia Sacramone, the American women produced their best performance in a world championships, winning nine out of 15 medals.

The trio took the top two spots in the balance beam and floor exercise finals on Sunday, adding four medals to the Americans’ gold-silver finishes in the all-around and uneven bars finals, and bronze medal finish on vault.

“I can’t find any other word, it was just very spectacular,” said former Soviet Olympian Valeri Liukin, the father and coach of Nastia. “It’s amazing.

“We are a very strong unit right now, and this is a real team. That’s what makes us strong, we help each other.”

On the men’s side, Jason Gatson, the only American to qualify for an event final, finished in seventh place on the parallel bars with 8.375 out of 9.5 after missing a release move and taking a big step back on his landing. The U.S. national champion, Todd Thornton, had finished 20th in the men’s all-around final Thursday.

This was the last international gymnastics competition to use the 10-point scoring system, etched into history by Nadia Comaneci’s unparalleled performance at the 1976 Olympics.

This week, officials from the International Gymnastics Federation, or FIG, officially approved a new code of points. Under the new code, which comes into effect Jan. 1, gymnasts will receive a combination of two scores – a 10-point mark for execution and an open-ended mark for difficulty.

Bruno Grundi, the federation’s president, said the new system would allow judges to “differentiate between the gymnasts” and open the door for athletes to hold records for high scores.

Liukin took the gold medal in Sunday’s balance beam final, showcasing her agility and grace on the 4-inch-wide apparatus with a 9.612 score out of 10. The 16-year-old dazzled the audience with elegant turns and leaps, and whipped off backflips as easily as if she were on solid ground.

“I feel great,” she said after her routine. “I knew I could pull it off.”

Memmel took silver with 9.512 on an athletic beam routine that featured a rock-solid performance of her signature move, a piked forward somersault with a 180-degree turn.

Her father and coach, Andrew Memmel, watched from the sideline and pumped his arms as the 17-year-old – who edged Liukin for the all-around title by 1-1000th of a point on Friday – hit each of her elements.

Romania’s Catalina Ponor – the Olympic gold medalist on beam – took bronze with 9.500.

In addition to her bronze medal on vault, 17-year-old Sacramone took gold on the floor exercise with 9.612 out of 10. Cheered on by Liukin, Sacramone completed a jazzy floor routine set to a Latin beat and ended her routine with a nearly flawless triple twist.

Liukin wobbled on some of her leaps and dance elements to finish second with 9.425 out of 9.9. The Netherlands’ Suzanne Harmes won bronze with 9.212 out of 10.

AP-ES-11-27-05 1120EST


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