LONDON - McKayla Maroney didn't need to look at the scoreboard.
The Olympic gold medals they were expected to win were going to someone else.
"It happens. It's gymnastics," Maroney said. "You can't be perfect, and sometimes things don't go as you planned."
Maroney wound up with a silver on vault after a rare fall Sunday.
The defending world champion on vault was considered pretty much a lock for the gold medal, which would have given the U.S. women three in the first three gymnastics events. Maroney never makes errors in training or in competition, and no one in the world comes close to her execution. She won her world title last year by almost a half-point and topped qualifying at these games by a similar margin.
"I wasn't focused on getting a gold medal," the 16-year-old said. "I just wanted to prove to everybody that I could hit two vaults and I could try to do my best for USA."
Her first vault was the difficult Amanar - a roundoff onto the takeoff board, back handspring onto the table and 2.5 twisting somersaults before landing. She got such great height off the table the fans in the first few rows had to look up to see her. Her form was perfect in the air - legs pencil-straight, body tightly coiled.
She took a hop on her landing, and came down out of bounds. But even with that 0.3 deduction, Maroney still scored 15.866, including a whopping 9.666 for execution.
Another vault like that, and the gold was hers. But she appeared to land the second one on the back of her heels, and her feet slid out from under her. Maroney fell to the mat with a loud "plop!" drawing a gasp from the crowd.
"I kind of felt it right away when I didn't get my full block," she said. "It was a little bit off, and I just kind of stuck with it. I really didn't know how to change it at that point."
She scored just a 14.3, giving her an average of 15.083. Coach Arthur Akopyan tried to console her, but Maroney looked shell-shocked as Sandra Izbasa of Romania did two impressive vaults to claim the gold. It was Izbasa's second Olympic gold, following her title on floor exercise in Beijing.
"I already knew that I pretty much only had the silver medal," Maroney said. "I really didn't deserve to win a gold medal if I fall on my butt."
Britain's Louis Smith made no such mistake, but the outcome was the same. Smith and Hungary's Krisztian Berki finished with identical 16.066 scores on the pommel horse, but Berki got the gold because his execution score of 9.166 was .10 points better. A tiebreaker also cost Smith in Beijing, when he dropped from second to bronze on the same event.
"You have to take it with a pinch of salt," Smith said. "If you watch it back on slow motion, you'll usually see the best athlete won."