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Two top US gymnasts keep their golden dreams alive for the All-Around competition

After settling for silver in the team competition, two US gymnasts are ready for redemption in the All-Around.

Liukin and Johnson
First, the men’s crew sent shockwaves around the world with their out-of-the-blue bronze finish in the team competition. Then, despite some major bobbles and blunders, the women nabbed silver behind hometown heroes China on Tuesday night. With the just-as-important individual all-around up next, here’s what you need to know as our top two US gymnasts go for the gold.

The Olympic gymnastics event: All-Around

Considered to be gymnastics’ most prestigious individual medal, the all-around event measures the world’s best gymnasts over all four events – balance beam, floor exercise, uneven bars and vault. To qualify for this year’s event, athletes needed to post a top-24 score in the first round of the team competition, held on August 10.

The Olympic gymnastics athletes

The fight for the top of the podium in the all-around may come down to two countrywomen competing for the red, white and blue. Reigning world all-around champ Shawn Johnson, age 16, and tough-as-nails Nastia Luikin, age 18, are set to battle it out for the gold. But right there in the mix with them will be China’s Yilin Yang and Yuyuan Jiang as well as Ksenia Semenova and Anna Pavlova from Russia.

The Olympic gymnastics scoring system

A perfect 17? Doesn’t have quite the same ring as that magical number 10, but with today’s scores combining both difficulty and execution, the numbers now fall into the 14 to 17 range.One set of judges gives out the “A” score, starting from eight and adding points for required elements and more difficult maneuvers (the harder the move, the more points the athlete will get). Then, another group of judges determines the “B” score which starts at 10 with deductions for errors in execution and artistry.

While we probably won’t see that elusive 17 pop up on the scoreboard in Beijing, any number over 16.5 is ideal.

The Olympic gymnastics history

If either Johnson or Liukin win the individual all-around, she’d join the elusive club of golden American gymnasts including Mary Lou Retton (’84) and Carly Patterson (’04). But going one-two may be an even bigger feat, as no other female American gymnasts have nabbed gold and silver in the same year.

The women’s All-Around airs Thursday, August 14 at 11:15 p.m. EST on NBC. Tune in for all of the action!

And for more Olympic coverage, check out these links:

Fun facts about the US Olympic team

2008 Olympics highlights, athletes, tips & style

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