Just call her Golden Gabby.
Douglas posted a winning score of 62.232 to edge out Russia’s Viktoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina. Fellow American Aly Raisman finished fourth.
By the time the London Games are over, Douglas should be one of the most marketable Olympic athletes not named Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte.
Douglas competes in one of America’s favorite sports. The “Magnificent Seven” first captured America’s hearts in 1996. Thursday, all eyes were on Gabby.
Coming into today, America wanted to see these two talented young ladies bring home gold in one of the staple events in the Summer Games.
It wouldn’t be accurate to say Douglas came out of nowhere – this U.S. Gymnastics team was lauded and hyped coming into the Games. But she wasn’t exactly a household named star either.
That distinction would go to her teammate, Jordyn Wieber. Wieber won the 2011 World Championship last fall. Coming into these Games, she was viewed as the captain and leader of the team. Douglas was unable to compete in that 2011 final, since Wieber and Raisman qualified ahead of her. Since they’re on the same team, only two athletes per country are allowed to compete. At the time, there was little to no debate, controversy or outrage that Douglas wouldn’t be able to compete alongside her teammates.
Fast forward to last week at the Olympic qualifying for the all-around competition. This time Douglas and Raisman qualified and Wieber didn’t. There was no celebration for Douglas finally earning a spot in the most coveted competition in gymnastics. All of the public’s focus was on Wieber – who burst into tears when she didn’t make it – and there was general outrage in a rule that wouldn’t allow all of them to compete.
Most of the post-qualifying interviews and chatter were around Wieber, who saw her dreams crushed, and on how unfair it was that the defacto captain of the team wouldn’t be competing in the premier event. There was hardly a whisper about how hard work finally helped Douglas reach the mountaintop of gymnastic excellence.
When the US team ended up winning the team event, Wieber was lauded for rallying to help her team earn Gold. Pundits called her a great teammate, who put her disappointing all-around qualifying behind her and put the team first. Again lost in the shuffle was another stellar performance from Douglas, who has been nothing short of a star in these Olympics. She scored a 61.465 in all four events…the best score of all gymnasts that competed.
Look, I feel for Wieber. I really do. She worked her entire career for this moment, and didn’t get to compete in the event on a rule that, at best, is misguided and doesn’t allow the best athletes to compete.
But I’m pretty sure Douglas has worked her entire life for this moment, too. After being doubted by coaches that she didn’t have what it takes to compete under such stress, she was the “clutch” one who was in the spotlight representing her country. She’s the one who is the most famous African-American gymnast since Dominique Dawes. She’s the one who should have her name permanently attached to the 2012 Olympics.
Wieber’s disappointment may have made the nice (and convenient) narrative, but it’s time the media and public latch on to the new narrative; of a young star in the making.
After Douglas’ performance today in the all-around, the public may finally take notice of this rising star.