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Gabby Douglas: from high 'maintenance' gymnast to Olympic champion

A year ago, Gabby Douglas wasn't seen as a potential Olympic all-around gymnastics champion. But the London Games have confirmed her meteoric rise into gymnastics' elite.

By Staff writer / August 2, 2012

Gabby Douglas waves to the audience after her final and deciding performance on the floor, followed by coach Liang Chow during the artistic gymnastics women's individual all-around competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics Thursday in London.

Julie Jacobson/AP

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London

When Gabrielle Douglas won gold in the women's all-around gymnastics final Thursday night, she made it look easy, because that is what Olympic champions are meant to do. 

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Douglas won gold in the women's all-around gymnastics final Thursday night.

The only surprising part, perhaps, was that it was Gabrielle Douglas. 

With a score of 62.232, Ms. Douglas topped Russia Victoria Komova by 0.259 points. Russian Aliya Mustafina and American Alexandra Raisman both finished behind with identical scores of 59.566, but the tiebreaker favored Ms. Mustafina for bronze.

So stunning has been Douglas's improvement during recent months, that her victory was no shock. In some quarters, she had been seen as the favorite. From the focal distance of a year ago, however, her Olympic all-around title is nothing short of astounding. 

Asked if he could have imagined this two years ago when he became Douglas's coach, Liang Chow answered, "no."

Martha Karolyi, the team coordinator and wife of legendary coach Bela, who has seen a few gymnasts in her time, added: "I have never seen a gymnast climb from an average gymnast to the best in the world in five months."  

Focus was a question mark

Average, she conceded, is a relative term. Douglas has always been "very talented." The talent isn't what needed improving. The focus that made Thursday night possible? That's been two years in the making. 

It took shape Thursday in a performance relentless in its efficiency. The night evolved into a duel between Douglas and Komova for gold. Douglas staked herself to a lead on the vault, and Komova pulled it back on the uneven bars. From there, it was a matter of who would hold their nerve on the beam and floor, and Douglas never flinched.

Before these Games began, Mr. Chow compared Douglas to his previous star pupil, Beijing all-around silver medalist Shawn Johnson. "Shawn is a more self-controlled individual," he answered. "Gabby ... still needs a lot of maintenance."

Translation: Well before Beijing began, Ms. Johnson had figured it out. She was a world champion. She had been tested. She knew that the only substitute for hard work was harder work. She had bought in and did not need a baby-sitter.

And Douglas?

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