American women power to world team gold in gymnastics

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TOKYO (Reuters) - The United States stormed to gold in the women's team event at the world gymnastics championships on Tuesday to emphatically put down a marker for next year's London Olympics.

Despite being without Beijing Olympic captain Alicia Sacramone, who tore her Achilles tendon last week, the U.S. finished with 179.411 points in Tokyo.

Runners-up Russia, the 2010 champions, were way off the pace, with 175.329 points, while China took bronze with 172.820 after falls from the beam and asymmetric bars.

As the last notes of Aly Raisman's floor exercise music faded, the Americans exchanged hugs before walking out with their index fingers pointed skywards.

"It's turned out being an awesome experience," 16-year-old Jordyn Wieber told reporters. "We sent a message that we're really strong as a country.

"Even losing one of our top members we were able to pull through and won the competition."

Raisman echoed her team mate's sentiments.

"It's an amazing feeling," she said. "I've been dreaming of this ever since I was a little kid."

Britain's women, led by Beth Tweddle, had their best result at world level with fifth place, just behind Romania in fourth.

"I wanted to prove that I am still up there, I am one of the top bar workers, and don't forget me for London 2012," Tweddle told the BBC.

The top eight teams, who also included Germany, Japan and Australia, gained automatic qualification for the London Olympics.

(Reporting by Alastair Himmer; Editing by Clare Fallon)