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Tweddle delights home crowd with gold medal

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LONDON (AP)

Beth Tweddle gave the home crowd exactly what it wanted.

Britain's best known gymnast won the gold medal on floor exercise Sunday, setting off a rousing cheer that shook The O2 Arena. It was Tweddle's second world title - she won on uneven bars in 2006 - and the second medal at these worlds for Britain.

"Just an amazing feeling," said Tweddle, a Union Jack flag wrapped around her. "To hear the whole arena pretty much shouting for you is just amazing."

Britain is emerging as a force in gymnastics ahead of the 2012 Olympics in London, and Tweddle is the one who kicked off the resurgence. Her bronze on uneven bars in 2003 was the country's first medal at the world championships, and her gold in '06 the first title.

Since then, Louis Smith claimed Britain's first Olympic medal in almost a century, a bronze on pommel horse in Beijing. Daniel Keatings' silver earlier this week was the country's first in the all-around.

Tweddle came in as a favorite on uneven bars, her signature event. But she didn't even make the final, falling in qualifying.

"I was pretty upset the other day," said Tweddle, who said she received dozens of text messages telling her to keep her chin up. "All that support helped me do what I did today."

She was greeted with cheers and whistles when she came into the arena, and when she landed her first tumbling run with an emphatic thud, the O2 erupted in cheers. Fans clapped in time to her music and when she struck her final pose, a roar went up that echoed around the arena.

Fans gave her a standing ovation - a rarity this week - and waved British flags. She applauded the crowd in return and then trotted off the podium to wait and see if her score would be good enough.

"I think I was more nervous waiting for the scores than to do my own floor routine," she said.

But her score held, and Tweddle had her second world title.

"It's the best feeling in the world," she said. "It's probably better (than first title) because everyone expects me to be better on uneven bars. To come out with a world title on floor shows I'm not just a one-piece gymnast."

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TWICE AS NICE: And to think, Marian Dragulescu almost missed this.

Dragulescu won his fourth world title on vault Sunday, giving him two gold medals in as many days at the world gymnastics championships. Not bad for a guy who retired after the Beijing Olympics and didn't start training until May.

"I've very happy," he said. "And tired, too!"

Dragulescu landed on the back of his head at the 2007 European championships, and was bothered by neck and back pain for much of the next two years. He decided to retire after Beijing, saying the pain had become too much, and began coaching.

But as the months passed and Dragulescu began to feel better, he started wondering if maybe he should try competing again.

No doubt about it after this performance.

He soared high above the table on each of his vaults, getting such great air the folks in the first few rows had to crane their necks to see him, and his form was perfect. Despite all that speed and power, though, he landed with barely a wobble.

Dragulescu knew his score would be good, clapping to the crowd and making "V" signs with both hands as he climbed off the podium. North Korea's Ri Se-gwang was still to go, though, and he's one of the few gymnasts with the difficulty to match Dragulescu.

"He's the most powerful in the world," Dragulescu said.

But Ri fell on his first vault. Dragulescu grabbed a large Romanian flag and hopped onto the vault, pulling teammate and silver medalist Flavius Koczi with him. They unfurled the flag and waved it as the crowd cheered.

This is the third time Dragulescu has won both the floor and vault titles - he did it in 2006 and 2001 - and gives him eight titles overall.

Now the question is whether Dragulescu will be back in London in three years.

"I'm going to take it year by year," he said. "The most important thing is to be healthy and in gymnastics many accidents can happen, so that's why I don't think about 2012. I will think about only for the next year and then the next and then the next."

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AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUSSIE!: Lauren Mitchell gave Australia's medal count a big boost.

Mitchell won silvers on both balance beam and floor at the world gymnastics championships Sunday, only the second and third individual medals for an Australian woman. Monette Russo won bronze in the all-around in 2005.

"It's overwhelming," Mitchell said. "I didn't expect it all. It's amazing."

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OUCH!: Jessica Gil Ortiz of Colombia was in stable condition at a local hospital Sunday night after a scary fall on floor at the world gymnastics championships.

Ortiz landed on her head after doing a handspring into two front somersaults. As the crowd gasped, she rolled over, wincing in pain. Her music was shut off, and medical personnel rushed to the podium. She sat up briefly and moved both her arms and legs, then lay back down as the medics attended to her.

After about 10 minutes, she was strapped onto a stretcher and taken to a local hospital, where she had X-rays and other scans to make sure she was OK.

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ROPES AND MATS: Yann Cucherat of France withdrew from the parallel bars final and was replaced by Pham Phuoc Hung of Vietnam.


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