Russia's last performance was the floor exercise. Khorkina was up last. She needed a killer score to beat Romania for the gold. Of course, it was all planned by her agent this way. She brought out every trick in her fur-lined Prada bag, the coquette, the ice princess, the demon lover, playing as expertly as a geisha to the crowd, and mixed it all into a nearly flawless performance. She walked off the floor in high style, but it was all an act: Seconds later, she slumped in despair over the raised floor. Or was that the act? Then she and her team had to wait for the score to be announced. Her score of 9.787, combined with the three other powerhouse floor routines by her teammates, gave Russia the silver ahead of a strong Chinese team, but Romania won the gold. A game but outclassed U.S. team finished fourth. But gold, shmold! U.S., blue-ess! The real question was, what was going on in that blond, bobbed Russky head?


The Khorkina curtain wasn't down yet. Walking to the medal stand, the woman who scandalized her father by posing for Russian Playboy in 1997 ("I want people to remember me," she said -- yes, that will do it) still had a few scenes to play. In the midst of the sweet, innocent-faced other Superbabies, she wrinkled up her nose insouciantly at someone -- who? She congratulated the Romanians warmly, but then it was time again for me, Svetlana Khorkina -- that's K-H-O-R-K-I-N-A. As she walked toward the audience for the traditional photo shots in front of the stand, for some reason she slipped the medal off her neck, as if she was ashamed of it. She quickly put it back on, but it was a weird gesture.

And then, after all the other gymnasts had left, somehow she who must be obeyed managed to linger so she was the last one there, pointing, arching her eyebrows, finally climbing up onto a table and throwing her bouquet of flowers. It landed, naturally, in the press area.

Bravissima! Encore! Bravo!