'Flying Squirrel' finds gold medal
Thursday , August 02, 2012 - 12:35 PM
U.S. gymnast Gabrielle Douglas performs on the balance beam during the artistic gymnastics women's...
LONDON — Might be time to get Gabby Douglas a new nickname.
Olympic champ might work.
Known as "The Flying Squirrel," Douglas won the women’s all-around title Thursday night, becoming the third straight American to win gymnastics’ biggest prize. It’s her second gold medal of the London Games, coming two nights after she and her "Fierce Five" teammates gave the United States its first Olympic title since 1996.
Douglas rocked the O2 Arena with her electric floor routine, flashing a dazzling smile and lots of pizzazz. She finished with a score of 62.232, about three-tenths ahead of Viktoria Komova of Russia, runner-up at last year’s world championships.
Komova’s floor routine was impressive, as well, and she stood at the center of the arena staring intently at the scoreboard. When the final standings flashed, her head dropped and she hurried to the sidelines, tears falling. Douglas finished with a score of 62.232, about three-tenths ahead of the Russian.
Aliya Mustafina and Aly Raisman finished with identical scores of 59.566, but the Russian got the bronze on a tiebreak. The lowest scores for both gymnasts were dropped, and the remaining three were totaled. That gave Mustafina a total of 45.933 and Raisman 45.366.
While her U.S. teammates hopped up and down in the stands, Douglas simply grinned. Up in the stands, her mother, Natalie Hawkins, hugged her children and Missy Parton, whose family Douglas lives with in West Des Moines, Iowa.
It was two years ago that Douglas told her mom she wanted to move from their home in Virginia Beach, Va., to train with Liang Chow, who coached Shawn Johnson in 2008. Hawkins said absolutely not; there was no way she was letting the youngest of her four children move halfway across the country at 14.
But Douglas’ two older sisters lobbied on her behalf, giving their mother a list of reasons why Gabby should be allowed to go. The only reason to stay: They would miss her.
Just as she did in Tuesday night’s team final, Douglas set the tone with the very first event, vault. Once again doing the difficult Amanar — a roundoff onto the takeoff board, back handspring onto the table and 2.5 twisting somersaults before landing — Douglas took a small hop to the left and then another, putting her dangerously close to the out-of-bounds line. She never looked down, but it was clear she knew how close she was, twisting her upper body to the left to absorb the momentum and keep her legs from moving. She stayed in place — and in bounds — and her 15.966 gave her a lead she never relinquished.
Komova made it close on uneven bars, where she looks more like a little hummingbird as she flies between the bars. Her routine is incredibly difficult, yet she does it with such lightness and style. She took a small hop on her dismount, but camouflaged it by immediately thrusting her hands into the air and turning to salute the judges. When her score of 15.966 was announced, she nodded slightly as she zipped her Russian team warm-up all the way to her chin.
Next came balance beam, where both Komova and Douglas have struggled. Komova’s fall during the team competition at last year’s worlds hurt Russia’s chance of catching the Americans, while Douglas might have won the U.S. title if not for a fall on the second day of competition.
With the stakes higher than ever, however, both were clutch. Most of Komova’s tricks were landed with confidence, and her sheep jump — where she thrusts her head and arms back while kicking her feet behind her — was exquisite, the soles of her feet brushing her ponytail.
But Douglas did her one better. She oozed confidence as she whipped off a series of back handsprings, landing as easily and confidently as she had when she performed on the arena floor. She did a front somersault with such power the thud of her landing echoed inside the arena.
She took a small hop forward on her dismount, but it hardly mattered. The look on her face said it all: Yeah, I got this. Her score of 15.5 extended her lead over Komova to more than three-tenths of a point going into the final rotation, floor exercise.
While Douglas’ skills on floor are impressive — she gets more air than the NBA’s Carmelo Anthony, whom she and her teammates met the other day — it’s her personality that makes it a show-stopper. The crowd was clapping almost from the opening notes of her techno music, and she got downright sassy with her dance moves, directing playful grins at the judges.
Her score of 15.033 meant Komova needed a 15.36 or better to win. She didn’t come close, and Douglas grabbed herself another gold.STORY:201208020032'Flying Squirrel' finds gold medal/Sports/2012/08/02/Flying-Squirrel-finds-gold-medal.html-1