Thursday, August 2, 2012

Gabby Douglas Morphs Into World’s Greatest Gymnast

Gabby Douglas was given the nickname Flying Squirrel for a reason.

Simple.

That girl can fly and has become a gymnast of distinction and charm, an athletic figure with courage and guts of a stuntwoman, a young lady of soul and aplomb. Ladies and gentlemen, at long last the demographics of gymnastics for the Americans are greatly meaningful. That means gymnastics is back to normal with a teenager putting the U.S women’s gymnastics team back on a pedestal. At a young age, Douglas’ had nothing else on her mind other than to pursue her dream of becoming a gymnast. And look where she’s at today. She’s an Olympian, and not just a star of the sport, but a winner, a 16-year-old who left her family to fulfill her dream in Des Moines.

So here was her starting point, and as it happened late Thursday afternoon, she had an exceptional performance in her Olympic all-around debut. The exuberance and calmness she showed in competition was roughly an advantage for her to perform her routines brilliantly and in style, and because Gabrielle Douglas stayed calmed and nailed her acrobatic and signature floor routines, she secured the all-around gold medal making her the first African American to win the women’s all-around gymnastics championship at the London Olympics. She won one of the more popular events in gymnastics, wonderfully fitting the same category as Mary Lou Retton, Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin, who are the only other Americans to win the Olympic all-around gold. After the victory, she stepped up to the podium with a widened smile, just as shiny as her gold medal, an electric smile that will feature on Wheaties boxes and gleam on magazine covers.

With a gold medal draped around her neck, becoming the fourth female American gymnast to win the Olympic all-around title, Douglas heard the national anthem as the American flag lifted to the rafters. A bouquet in one hand, while showing off her gold, she celebrated on the brightest stage and fought back tears — a touching ending to the opening chapter of a promising future ahead. It was a day of perseverance and self-confidence as Douglas came into a stiff competition with the Russians, Victoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina. The mind-blowing gold medal win happened when we least expected it, from a girl no one every thought would beat Russian sensation Mustafina, but as we witnessed with our own two eyes, Douglas was fierce and had mental toughness all along. On the subject of Douglas, a fiery competitor who gave it her best, she competes with heart and has the mettle to flourish into a star after a historic breakthrough that reshaped the brand of USA Gymnastics.

Douglas, who also became the first U.S. woman ever to win gold in both the team competition and all-around, earned a staggering 62.232 score, beating Komova and Mustafinia. The Russians couldn’t secure the gold medal, as they would have liked. But, in the end of it all, Komova got the silver and Mustafinia ended up with the bronze. And unfortunately, Aly Raisman, Douglas’ teammate, failed to keep her balance on the beam and fell short of winning the bronze in a tiebreaker, so settled for fourth place.

It’s amazing to see a young black woman reach her dream, becoming an American gymnast and representing our country with dignity and pride. She was one of the more lucky ones who made it, and on the top of it, won a pair of Olympic gold. Not many teenagers can leave London and tell you stories for ages about the time they’ve won gold medals. Not many teenagers can tell you stories about battling it out with world-class athletes all over the world. Not many teenagers can tell you they represented this country and played a sport in the summer games that they are profoundly obligated to playing.

But Gabby can tell you. She can also later decide to be the subject of a book if she chooses to write a story about her Olympic adventure as a young girl in London. Meanwhile, she may have broken the color barriers for African Americans who’ve always had a dream to push toward gymnastics. The Russians were supposed to win gold in both the team and all-around competition and were more experienced and talented, but couldn’t match Douglas’ level of performances. It had to be a proud accomplishment for Douglas to beat two of the best gymnasts Russia could offer, and certainly she took on the challenge, confronted the tension and exceeded expectations as the United States were long overdue and were finally superior again, with Gabby anchoring the USA gymnastics team.

When she took the lead early on, and while Komova and Mustafinia made critical mistakes to smear their hopes of Olympic gold, she never lost it and continued to perform her routines perfectly, crushing the Russian girls’ hearts in an unevenly matched competition to say the least. What happened was, needing almost a perfect score to move into the lead, Komova became more and more frustrated, more and more unconfident and uncertain of herself, a bit intimidated against the United States. Douglas began the night at North Greenwich Arena atop the scoreboard, and from then on out, she never looked back, holding on to a commanding lead. After the final results, Komova finished with a 15.1, well short of Douglas’ impressive score. Silver, nonetheless, was awarded to Komova, after all. Bronze, however, was awarded to Mustafinia.

The four all-around scores for Douglas, no surprise, ranged from 15.033 to 15.996, giving her enough cushion to fall sound asleep in the middle of the competition and then wake up hours later with the lead still. In over three days, amazingly — for those who haven’t watched closely — she earned a 15.000 or better in 11 of 12 performances. She’s a breakout gymnasts, a star who was born. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a rarity for a sport of equilibrium and coordination. As a teenager with lots of energy, she is alarming and adept at keeping her balance, extremely gifted at leaping and rotating in the air. It’s very seldom, well, from what we’ve seen all week, that Douglas makes an error, and usually she breezes through the routines and racks up an overwhelming score.

When it comes to gymnastics, no one ever imagined Douglas morphing into the world’s greatest gymnasts, surmounting past her teammate and friend Jordyn Wieber, the reigning world champion and was a favorite entering the Olympics last week but failed to qualify for the gymnastics all-around final. But then a new kid arrived on the block, and stunned the world. There were no burden of expectations, not even once did she fear failure.

She wasn’t fearful of the challenge and never ran from pressure, but grasped the opportunity to dig for gold.

And certainly, she was motivated and in demand to get her hands on that gold.

She is remarkably good as gold.