FAIRFAX, Va. -- When she found herself in third place Thursday after the first night of the Visa Challenge gymnastics competition at the Patriot Center, Dominique Moceanu seemed disappointed.
"I could have done better," said Moceanu, who would have been ahead of both U.S. teammate Dominique Dawes and veteran Svetlana Boguinskaya of Belarus had she not been penalized three-tenths of a point for a rules technicality. "I have a lot of cleaning up to do to get my skills perfected."
Moceanu, the 13-year-old prodigy who trains in Houston with Bela Karolyi, did better last night. Though she wasn't perfect, she was good enough. She not only cleaned up her techniques, or at least paid closer attention to the rules, Moceanu cleaned up the rest of the competition in her only second event since moving up from the juniors.
With a sparkling performance that continued to raise expectations for next summer's Olympic Games, Moceanu won the women's event over Meng Fei of China. Teammate Katie Teft, who is 28 days older than Moceanu, finished third.
Dawes eliminated herself from the all-around competition -- the reigning U.S. champion was unable to perform in the floor exercise because of lack of preparation following a stress fracture in February -- while former world champion Svetlana Boguinskaya of Belarus showed some rust in her comeback from a 2 1/2 -year layoff. Boguinskaya was fourth.
"I wanted to win," said Moceanu, who burst onto the scene last summer by winning the U.S. junior nationals, then tied for second in her first senior event in February. "I was training hard back home and I guess it paid off. It was nice."
Said Dawes, who was competing for the first time since November, "It's just been longer [coming back] than I expected. Floor is the event I'm having trouble with."
Moceanu and Teft helped the United States win the team competition, with Belarus finishing second and China third. In the men's competition, U.S national champion Bill Roth won the all-around and led his teammates to victory. China was second and Belarus third.