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Gabby Douglas: The Olympic Golden Child

Gabby Douglas – The smallest United States’ woman gymnast provided the biggest thrills and claimed the ultimate Olympic prize Thursday. Gabby Douglas, deemed “The Flying Squirrel” for her daring aerial maneuvers, was nearly flawless in capturing the all-around gold medal, becoming the first woman of color to secure gymnastics’ top accolades.

It was an exhilarating performance by the 4-foot-11, 16-year-old from Virginia Beach. She dazzled the crowd and the judges with her illuminating smile as much as her beautiful tumbles and spectacular body control.

Going into the Games critics said Douglas was most likely to dazzle or fizzle because of the chances she takes. But she has been the former, holding the team together while performing with poise and grace.

Thursday she posted a score of 62.232, which was enough to conquer Russian Victoria Komova, who settled for silver at 61.973, a margin of only .269 points. Douglas posted the highest overall marks in the competition on both vault (15.966) and balance beam (15.500).

But she was particularly dynamic on the final rotation with a high-energy, fun-loving floor routine that mixed explosive tumbling with sassy dance moves. Her jumps were spectacular, her tumbling daring but always in control. Her score, 15.033, forced Komova, the only gymnast in position to overtake her for gold, to have to be perfect to beat her.

Komova almost did. Her floor routine was outstanding, as well, and she stood at the center of the arena staring intently at the scoreboard. When the final standings flashed, her head dropped and she hurried to the sidelines, tears falling.

Aliya Mustafina and American Aly Raisman tied for third at 59.566, but Mustafina won the tiebreaker for the bronze after both gymnasts’ lowest score was dropped.

Douglas gave the U.S. three straight all-around gold medals, following Carly Patterson and 2008 champion Nastia Liukin to make it three straight victories for the Americans in gymnastics’ highest-profile event. The sweep of the all-around and team gold;s in a single Olympics is the U.S.’s first.

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