When his feet hit the mat with a solid thud, he pumped his fists and smiled.
"I jumped up there, man on a mission-type thing," said Horton, who stood at the edge of the podium after and popped his uniform so everyone could see the "U-S-A" across his chest. "I was really aggressive. I caught all my releases really well — my last one was just kind of finger-tipped."
Leyva closed the show, drawing oohs and aahs from the crowd with his big release moves. When he did a little hop while in a handstand, the audience actually laughed. He let out a roar when he landed his dismount, and his energetic stepfather and coach, Yin Alvarez, let loose with a round of his trademark rhythmic clapping.
With more than a point lead over the British, the Americans let loose on floor exercise. An admiring murmur rippled through the crowd when Leyva, balancing on his hands, pulled his legs up and over his head so his knees touched his nose. When he finished, Alvarez yelled, "That was super good!"
Dalton capped it off with a routine that rivals all others for power and elegance. He actually looked as if he might go out of bounds on one tumbling run, but had the presence to pulls his toes back, almost as if he was retracting them back into his feet.
"It was kind of an exclamation point to end the day," Mazeika said.
The O2 Arena — where American flags, T-shirts and signs seemed to be everywhere — erupted in applause when the final scores were posted. The U.S. men looked up from their huddle and noted the marks with a few fist pumps.
"We definitely can carry on the confidence," Mikulak said. "We just want to stay humbled to make sure we go out and perform to the best of our ability."
The Japanese, meanwhile, need to figure out how they got so far off track.
Normally so graceful and precise that coaches use DVDs of their routines as teaching tools, the Japanese looked disoriented. Kazuhito Tanaka made four big errors in his first three events, including a botch on high bar that left him wildly swinging one-handed, like a child on the monkey bars.
Uchimura's performance was downright baffling. The only man to win three world titles has been so sublime since winning the silver medal in Beijing that Germany's Philipp Boy, runner-up at worlds the last two years, has joked he was born in the "wrong age." That Uchimura would cement his status as the greatest gymnast ever with the all-around title was all but a given.
But he fell on high bar, not even getting close on a release move. He then spun off pommel horse, getting up with a baffled look. He rallied from there, however, and wound up fourth in the individual scoring.
"I think more or less we all were thinking about how China was doing today, so it might have affected our performance," Uchimura said through a translator.
The Chinese have run roughshod over the gymnastics world for much of the last decade. But Chen Yibing and Zou Kai are the only holdovers from the Beijing gold rush, and China is no longer in a class by itself.
China's air of invincibility took its first hit at last year's world championships, where the Chinese finished behind Japan and the United States in qualifying. Yes, it was only qualifying, and they still left the event as they always do — with index fingers held high in the air and gold medals around their neck. But it was the first time since Athens that they failed to finish first in every phase of a major competition.
A reduction in team size, from six gymnasts in Beijing to five in London, hurt the Chinese even more. After building their team around one- or two-event specialists for so many years, they've been left with gaping holes in their lineups.
What hurt the Chinese most Saturday was simple sloppiness — shocking for a team once known for its impeccable execution. Chen's parallel bars routine wouldn't cut it for a high school gymnast. Zou Kai, the reigning gold medalist on high bar, probably won't even make the final after a routine that was almost indifferent. Guo Weiyang, pressed into service Wednesday after 2004 pommel horse gold medalist Teng Haibin dropped out with an arm injury, fell on his face on his dismount on floor exercise.