Beijing - Nastia Liukin of the United States edged her compatriot Shawn Johnson to win the women's individual all-around gold medal after a breathtaking Olympic gymnastics competition here on Friday.
Finishing one-two on the podium, the American duo forced the time for another national anthem to be played after hosts China wrapped up all the first three gymnastics titles in the National Indoor Stadium.
United States' Nastia Liukin competes on the uneven bars during the women's individual all-around final of the artistic gymnastics event of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing on August 15, 2008. [Agencies]
Liukin collected 63.325 points after flawless exercises on each of the four apparatus with a good combination of difficulty and quality, beating Johnson by 0.600. The bronze medal went to Yang Yilin of China in 62.650.
Reigning world champion Johnson made no major mistakes but Liukin was in a different class on uneven bars.
Johnson started her fight with the incredible stability that gave her the most coveted individual title at last year's world championships, making full advantage of her specialty vault.
She wooed the judges and spectators with a strong opening performance, gaining 15.875 points for an early lead.
But she suddenly dropped to third, behind Yang and Liukin, after the second rotation as the two both giving the best on uneven bars.
Liukin was awarded an awesome 16.650 points, with her dazzling routine on uneven bars and a difficulty of 7.7, while Yang was even better and acquired 16.725, the highest score of the day, equalling Liukin on difficulty but better on execution.
A small sway on balance beam further jeopardized Johnson's title hope, inviting sighs from the stands. Although Johnson showed the self-possession beyond her age, reconcentrating on her own game and finishing with no more mistakes, a gap of 0.600 points was hard for her to close in the final exercise of floor.
Performing before Johnson, Liukin held her nerves and gave almost perfect performance, sending the audience crazy.
The 15.525 points put Liukin firm on top of the podium and Johnson also leapfrogged Yang with another 15.525 points for her solid performance.
China's Jiang Yuyuan crashed her medal hope after missing her landing on her opening vaulting and finished sixth.
Italy's Vanessa Ferrari, all-around world champion in 2006, was still struggling with her injury. She tumbled before her hands touched the mat after her opening manoeuver on floor and was only 11th after the four rotations.