That “list” includes Mary Lou Retton, Carly Patteron, and Nastia Liukin – the only three American gymnasts to ever win the women’s Olympic all-around title. With the performance of her life in today’s all-around final in London, Gabby Douglas has just become the fourth.
Some may have considered the talented – but unpredictable –16-year-old to be an unlikely Olympic champion.
It was a complete meltdown on balance beam at the 2011 U.S.national championships that initially raised doubt about the young star’s ability to handle pressure. This mental collapse appeared to take her out of contention for the world championship team, but after redeeming herself at a private selection camp soon afterwards, U.S. national coordinator Martha Karolyi decided to give her another chance. Despite the unseasoned dynamo’s tendency to show some serious nerves in the heat of the moment, Karolyi recognized something special about Douglas – and so did the rest of the world.
Douglas went on to not only compete in the 2011 world championships in Tokyo, but she finished an impressive 5th all-around in the qualifications, made the event finals in the uneven bars, and helped her team win the gold medal. When she showed up at this year’s American Cup in March looking more confident than ever and even outscored the entire field – including world all-around champion Jordyn Wieber – it appeared she had officially conquered the competition demons.