A gold medal winner fell flat on her face, ending her chances of returning to the Olympics and her career in the span of 30 seconds. Fresh young faces rose to the challenge, forming a new group of American icons. The fastest man in the world was not. Two Brits dropped the baton and the ball, dashing their country's hopes in a relay event in a finish reminiscent of years past. Two sprinters learned they would have to take part in a run-off to break a dead heat in the women's 100-meter race – but one decided to drop out.
During this weekend's Olympic trials, the U.S. team saw some of the most dramatic highs and lows as they squared away who would be leading the country into the London Olympics.
The final day of competition for the women seeking a spot on the U.S. gymnastics team was highlighted by the brilliant performance of Gabby Douglas, who upset favorite Jordyn Wieber to nab an automatic spot on the team. Douglas, surging at exactly the right time, impressed the crowd and selection committee chief Martha Karolyi (who calls her the "flying squirrel") with her soaring routines.
"All of this hard work has definitely paid off," Douglas said, according to the USA Gymnastics website. "I just can't wait to wear those red, white and blue stripes down my back. It felt like a dream come true."
Wieber, seen as a top prospect for the all-around gold medal in London, rounded out the young women who had been widely expected to make up the team for a few months.
"It feels amazing to be an Olympian," Wieber said, according to the USA Gymnastics website. "This is definitely the best day of my life, and knowing that all of my hard work has paid off is amazing. I'm just so proud of each and every girl who competed here today."
But the big name missing in the group was perhaps one of the most popular women in the gymnasium Sunday night: the defending Olympic champion, Nastia Liukin.
Liukin, attempting an extremely difficult comeback, struggled on the first day of competition but really fell apart Sunday night as she took on the uneven bars. Just 30 seconds into her routine, Liukin's fingertips grazed the bar, and she fell straight down to the mat. She lay face-down, with her father and coach Valeri Liukin by her side, her dreams of a comeback destroyed.
After shakily finishing the rest of her routine, she waved to the crowd, knowing this was the last time she would compete in a USA gymnastics uniform. Tears welled up in her eyes as she received an ovation given with the same intensity as when she had won competitions in the past.
"I wasn't really expecting that," Liukin told NBC's Andrea Joyce. "I kind of just had tears in my eyes seeing 12,000 to 15,000 people on their feet cheering for me. It was an emotional, but amazing, way to end my career."
But Liukin noted that she had achieved all of her personal goals at the Olympics in Beijing and was thrilled to cheer on the next generation. And as Douglas, Wieber, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney were officially named to the team on Sunday night, all of them shed tears of joy and no doubt relief that they had made their dreams come true. Now, their focus will shift toward trying to bring a medal home.
The big action wasn't merely taking place in the gymnasium, either. The trials saw a slew of impressive performances by 17-year-old Missy Franklin, who swims on her high school team back home. Franklin turned in stellar time after stellar time, earning her an intense program at the Olympics that made even Beijing champ Michael Phelps proud.
Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.
This week, CNN is featuring a series exploring the concept of American exceptionalism. Readers debated whether the United States is No. 1, and whether it matters. There were no easy answers; many said there are good and bad things about America, so perhaps we rank well in some things, but not others.
This reader was very proud of the country.
lacertosus: "One thing this beloved country does very well where no other country comes even close is the sense of community and citizenship. As a migrant, it amazes me how American I feel. This is the only country that makes you feel that you are an essential part of it upon receiving one's citizenship. No other country provides that! Even though America is not No. 1 in many areas compared to other countries, this is BY FAR the only place I'd rather be."
Does the United States think globally enough?
MarineNick: "America is a fantastic nation but America needs to join the global community and realise that greatness is only achieved through cooperation and education. We can learn from others' successes and failures and through that we will become a truly great planet."
RSG12345: "Talk to India, China, Malaysia and Russia. Europe is a spittoon. They can't even get their budgets in order, or have you not been paying attention. And CNN is promoting this crap?"
Another said politics is too polarized.
Alex Klatsky: "Politics is the reason we are falling behind in many of these areas. Every single issue in America has to become a political debate. Part of the problem is the media reporting every single issue as a political debate, part of it is politicians who are unwilling to put aside rhetoric and party lines in order to make changes, part of it is American citizens who are unwilling to elect some out of the box politicians for fear of losing an electoral majority. We do so much fingerpointing and try to blame someone or another for the reason things have gotten this way. It's the rich, or the poor, or immigrants, or liberals, or conservatives, or OWS, or tea party. There are so many positive changes that can be made in this country and that both parties agree on but never happen anymore because everyone wants to know 'Whats in it for me?' We have let politics take us so far away from what it meant to be America. When I was a kid I wanted to be a politician. These days I think I'd rather scrub toilets at the local high school."
No. 1 can mean a lot of different things. FULL POST
A deep-sea expedition will launch from the shores of Honolulu on Tuesday in an attempt to solve the mystery of vanished aviator Amelia Earhart, according to the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery.
The group will launch its Niku VII expedition 75 years after the first ship set sail in search of Earhart, her navigator Fred Noonan and their Lockheed Electra aircraft.
The initial launch was set for Monday, but was pushed back to Tuesday because of a scarcity of flights to Hawaii, according to the expedition’s daily reports Web page.
“Meanwhile, the technical staff is very glad of the extra day,” a recent blog post from the group said. “There are always glitches, stuff that doesn’t work quite the way it should, tests that need to be run, toothpaste to be bought, and the additional time will allow for these issues to be resolved while still in port where there are stores and cell phones and other markers of modern civilization.”
Once out of the port, the crew will set sail for Nikumaroro Island in the South Pacific, where researchers believe Earhart landed, was stranded and ultimately met her death during her doomed attempt at an around-the-world flight in 1937.
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery has been investigating the mystery surrounding Earhart’s death for 24 years, has launched eight prior expeditions and has developed a comprehensive theory of her disappearance and last days on earth.
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery theorizes that Earhart and Noonan landed on Nikumaroro Island - then called Gardner’s Island - after failing to find a different South Pacific island they were set to land on. The pair is believed to have landed safely and called for help using the Electra’s radio. And in a twist of fate, the plane was swept out to sea, washing away Earhart and Noonan’s only source of communication. U.S. Navy search planes flew over the island, but not seeing the Electra, passed it by and continued the search elsewhere.
"What makes this the best expedition is the technology we've been able to assemble to search for the wreckage of that airplane," Rick Gillespie, executive director for The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, told CNN on Monday. "We have an autonomous vehicle. We have multibeam sonar above the University of Hawaii ship we're on right now. We have a remote-operated vehicle to check out the targets (and a) high-definition camera. We're all set."
At a conference in Washington, D.C., last month, the organization announced its newest study suggesting that dozens of radio signals once dismissed were actually transmissions from Earhart’s plane after she vanished. Discovery News reported that the group has discovered there were 57 “credible” radio transmissions from Earhart after her plane went down.
Earlier this year, the organization also discovered what is believed to be a cosmetics jar once belonging to Earhart on Nikumaroro Island.
"All these things we can't explain unless the woman we think was there, was there," Gillespie said.
More on Amelia Earhart:
The race to the presidency now turns toward the general election in November. CNN.com Live is your home for all the latest news and views from the campaign trail.
Today's programming highlights...
10:00 am ET - Department of Justice briefing - U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole will hold a briefing with reporters. Details of the briefing have not been released, but reporters are expected to ask about the "Fast and Furious" controversy.
11:00 am ET - Airbus announcement - Airbus is expected to unveil plans to invest in a manufacturing plant in Mobile, Alabama.
CNN.com Live is your home for breaking news as it happens.
It may be near the end of the week before power is restored to some of the millions of those lacking electricity following weekend storms as another day of sweltering temperatures was forecast for much of the nation Monday.
The intense early-summer weather has baked areas from Missouri to New York to Georgia with record-breaking heat and unleashed fierce storms that knocked out power over the weekend. At least 16 people were killed from the series of storms.
While the mercury Monday was forecast to stop short of the century mark in many areas, high temperatures will still approach 100 degrees and will definitely be in the 90s for most of the eastern two-thirds of the country, according to CNN meteorologist Sarah Dillingham.FULL STORY
Three British troops were shot and killed by a man wearing the uniform of an Afghan national police officer in violence-plagued southern Afghanistan, the British Ministry of Defence said Monday.
They were serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force when they were killed Sunday.
The attack is under investigation, the NATO-led force said.
The British said two of the soldiers were from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, and the third was serving with the Royal Corps of Signals.
It was unclear whether the attacker was an Afghan police officer or an infiltrator wearing the uniform.
Residents in central and eastern United States will sweat through another blistering day Monday as power outages from weekend storms continue to plague much of the country.
The intense early-summer weather has baked areas from Missouri to New York to Georgia with record-breaking heat and unleashed fierce storms that knocked out power to millions over the weekend. At least 16 people were killed from the series of storms.
While the pinnacle of heat has passed for many, so-called cooler temperatures Monday will still reach as high as 99 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) for Louisville, Kentucky, and 96 degrees in Columbus, Ohio.
But triple-digit heat is still expected to smother areas from Missouri to South Carolina on Monday.FULL STORY
As firefighters gained the upper hand Monday on a fast-moving wildfire in Colorado Springs, many residents began the process of picking up lives interrupted by an inferno that killed two people, destroyed nearly 350 homes and damaged dozens more.
Evacuation orders for all except the hardest hit areas were lifted by late Sunday for most of the 32,000 residents who were forced from their homes after winds last week whipped the blaze that has been described as the most destructive in state history.
"Now we're beginning to look at how do we rebuild and begin the recovery," Gov. John Hickenlooper said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
"But we also know that Mother Nature can be pretty fickle out there, so we're keeping ourselves very alert."FULL STORY
Aimee Copeland, the 24-year-old Georgia woman who has waged a two-month battle against a flesh-eating bacteria, is expected to be released from the hospital Monday.
"She's real excited," her father, Andy, said last week on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront."
"She's been seeing those four walls inside that hospital for a long time."
Copeland will enter a rehab facility for an undetermined amount of time before returning home after surgeons amputated most of her hands, part of her abdomen, one of her legs and her remaining foot in an effort to stay ahead of the infection. She has also had multiple skin grafts.FULL STORY