POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Aug 3, 2012
LONDON » Just 14, Gabby Douglas pleaded with her mother to let her move cross country, certain a new coach could help her get to the Olympics.
Not two years after setting out on her own, Douglas beat Russia's Viktoria Komova for the all-around title Thursday night, becoming the third straight U.S. athlete to win gymnastics' biggest prize and the first African-American to do so. It was 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.
"It feels amazing to be the Olympic champion," Douglas said.
The Americans have been looking for their "next Mary Lou" since she won in 1984, and now they've got her in the 16-year-old Douglas. Throw in her adorable "Flying Squirrel" nickname and sweet backstory, and Douglas' two gold medals certainly won't be her only riches.
"I haven't thought about that," Douglas said. "I just wanted to seize the moment. You have to learn how to enjoy the moment."
Her smile alone is enough to dazzle Madison Avenue, and her personality is bigger than she is.
Coach Liang Chow told Douglas the gold was hers after an electrifying floor routine, but she had to wait another 5 minutes until it was official.
That's because Komova, runner-up at last year's world championships, was still to come.
Komova's floor routine was impressive, as well. Finished, she stood at the center of the arena staring intently at the scoreboard, fingertips pressed to her lips, teammate Aliya Mustafina rubbing her shoulder. When the final standings flashed, Komova dropped her head and headed to the sidelines, tears falling.
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.
"I'm still upset because I could have been gold and I didn't get it," said Komova, her silver medal buried in the pocket of her warm-up jacket.
Douglas, meanwhile, was grinning ear to ear. Up in the stands, her mother, Natalie Hawkins, embraced her children and then shared a long hug with Missy Parton, whose family took Douglas in after she moved to West Des Moines, Iowa, and now counts her as one of their own.
"She inspires me," Hawkins said, referring to her champion.
"To keep it together in that moment when it meant so much says a lot about her."