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Gold for Gabby

11:28 PM, Aug 2, 2012   |    comments
  • US gymnast Gabrielle Douglas and teammates Kyla Ross, Jordyn Wieber, Alexandra Raisman and Mckayla Maroney wave during the women's team of the artistic gymnastics event of the London Olympic Games on July 31, 2012 (Getty Images)
    
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LONDON -- In a moment all about color -- gold, silver and bronze -- U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas made history winning the most coveted hue of all, Olympic gold. Douglas, 16, became the first African-American, the first woman of color, to win the all-around title.

Douglas led from start to finish, topping Russia's Victoria Komova.

In her final event, the floor, Douglas began her routine to cheers of "Go Gabby!" As her techno music played, she had the crowd dancing as she turned North Greenwich Arena into Club Gabby. Cheers filled the place as she finished, her smile spread even wider as she fell into a bear hug from her coach, Liang Chow.

Douglas became the fourth U.S. gymnast to capture the coveted all-around title, after Mary Lou Retton, Shannon Miller and Nastia Liukin.

Two years ago, for the first time, the USA took the top two spots in women's all-around when Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson won gold and silver, respectively.

Douglas and teammate Aly Raisman were both looking to follow suit. Douglas was also hoping to become the first woman of color to win the Olympic all-around gold. Placing anywhere in the top three would make her the African-American female gymnast to win an individual Olympic medal since Dominique Dawes did in '96.

"She was one of my inspirations and role models growing up," Douglas said.

Missing among the 24 gymnasts competing for the title on Thursday was the teenager favored to win it all, reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber, who finished fourth in qualifying. Since only two gymnasts from each country are allowed to advance to the finals, Wieber had to watch her teammates from the arena.

For Bela Karolyi, the famed coach of the 1996 gold medal team, watching the all-around final without Wieber was like competing at what he termed an "Olympic invitational."

In the wake of that heartbreak, Wieber's bounced back and helped her team win the gold on Tuesday. "I'm most excited and happy about her," Karolyi said afterward. "This kid was hammered by the stupid rule, stupid rule."

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The Americans won their first Olympic team gold since the "Magnificent Seven" in 1996. Karoyli called the 2012 group a "stronger, more prepared, united" team. Though there was no Kerri Strug ankle-grabbing drama, there was the redemptive story of Wieber.

The Americans finished more than five points ahead of silver-medalist Russia. Romania took the bronze. In a sport usually decided by tenths, "That's a good old fashioned shed-whupping," as U.S. coach John Geddert put it.

Without Wieber in the all-around, Douglas entered as the favorite. In the team final, when the U.S. won the gold, Douglas performed four strong routines to claim the highest score - 61.465 - of any single gymnast. On Thursday, she faced strong competition from Raisman, who only did the beam and floor in the team final, and Russians Victoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina.

At 14, Douglas moved away from her family in Virginia Beach to train in Des Moines, Iowa with Chow, who also coached Shawn Johnson, the Olympic silver medalist. Leaving home at such a young age, and adjusting to a new environment and host family was challenging.

In the past, Douglas has been undone by her nerves. Last year at the Visa Championships, Douglas imploded finishing seventh in the all-round. She said that experience helped steeled her for high-stake competitions ahead. "I think I've improved so much with the mental situation," Douglas said before London.

"I learned about being a competitor," Douglas said. "No one is going to feel sorry for you. No one is going to be like, 'Ooh, you fell.' This is going to be my chance to shine. You have to go out there and be fierce."

Known as "The Flying Squirrel," because of her aerodynamics on the uneven bars, she now has a new nickname: Olympic all-around champion.

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