2012 Olympic all-around champion Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas and the rest of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team, which took home the first team gold medal for the U.S. since 1996 at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, will visit the “Late Show with David Letterman,” airing at 11:35 p.m., Tuesday, August 14 on CBS.
“I definitely had this amazing feeling,” Douglas said of her mindset during the heat of prestigious “All-Around” competition, which determines the world’s best overall female gymnast. “I just told myself, ‘Believe. Don’t fear, just believe.’ I didn’t really think about making mistakes. I just wanted to represent everyone, not just myself — Team USA, coaches, family. I wanted to show my best routines and just enjoy the moment.”
“She is a very graceful gymnast and also she has the strength and determination,” said Douglas’ head coach, Liang Chow. “I am totally beside myself. I think it was a wonderful night, and for me as a coach, that was a wonderful dream come true — to have an Olympic Champion.”
Now known as the “Fierce Five,” Gabby and the girls, Alexandra “Aly” Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber and Kyla Ross have also had success on the individual medal front — Maroney won silver in the women’s vault, and team captain Raisman took home gold in the floor exercise and bronze in the balance beam event.
“She showed such great improvement, it is incredible in such a short time,” Women’s National Team Coordinator Martha Karolyi said of Douglas, who is the latest in a line of American all-around champions, including Mary Lou Retton (1984), Carly Patterson (2004) and Nastia Liukin (2008). “I have never seen an average, but good, gymnast five months ago climb up to be the best in the world. That’s the truth.”
Douglas, whose smiling face and shiny gold medal currently grace the cover of “People” magazine, will headline the 2012 Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions coming to the Wells Fargo Center on Friday, November 9. In addition to her Fierce Five teammates, the tour will also feature Olympians John Orozco, Jake Dalton, Jonathan Horton, Sam Mikulak and men’s all-around bronze medalist Danell Leyva, as well as 2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin.
Sixteen-year-old Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas is doing more than just proudly representing her country at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
She’s making history.
On Tuesday, Douglas won the team gold medal with her teammates. This was the first time the USA women’s gymnastic team won gold since 1996. Douglas won her second gold medal in the gymnastics individual all-around final on Thursday. Douglas is the first American woman to win the gold medals in both team gymnastics and the all-around. She is also the first Black woman to win gold in the gymnastics individual all-around final.
“I told her before she left for London, that we are going to celebrate like you won a gold medal,” said Natalie Hawkins, Douglas’ mother. “If you win a silver medal, we are going to celebrate like you won a gold. If you get a bronze, we will celebrate like you took home the gold. If you don’t get a medal at all, we will still celebrate like there’s no tomorrow. No matter what you do, you’re an Olympian and that says it all.”
Known as the “Flying Squirrel” for her electrifying aerial performances, Douglas honed her gymnastics skills in Virginia Beach. Born to Timothy Douglas and Hawkins, Douglas began training in gymnastics at age six when her older sister, Arielle, convinced their mother to enroll her in gymnastics classes.
When she was eight, Douglas won an all-around gymnastics award for her level at the 2004 Virginia State Championships. At age 14, Douglas moved from her home in Virginia to live with a host family in Iowa, so she could train with Liang Chow, who was the coach of former world and Olympic champion Shawn Johnson.
“Letting her go to Iowa was one of the hardest decisions I made in my life,” Hawkins said. “I knew I would miss her, but I knew this was her dream. But to know she’s joined with a coach who believes in her 100 percent and she believes in them 100 percent meant the world to me, because she’s happy and going after her dream.”
Douglas made her national debut at the 2010 Nastia Liukin SuperGirl Cup, a televised Level 10 meet held in Worcester, Mass., where Douglas placed fourth all-around. Her first elite meet was the 2010 Cover Girl Classic in Chicago, where Douglas placed third on balance beam, sixth on vault and ninth all-around in the junior division.
At the 2010 U.S. Junior National Championships, Douglas won the silver medal on the balance beam, placed fourth all-around and on vault, and tied for eighth on the floor exercise. At the Pan American Championships, she won the uneven bars title and placed fifth in all-around.
Douglas was named to the 2011 U.S. World Championships Team. In the preliminary round of competition, Douglas delivered a strong performance in every event, placing fifth in all-around, but because teammates Jordyn Wieber and Alexandra Raisman notched higher finishes, Douglas was ineligible to compete in the all-around final due to the two athletes per country rule.
Douglas’ success didn’t come without hardships. In 2011, at the World Championships, Douglas placed fifth after an error during her routine. In March, at the Pacific Rim Championships, Douglas injured her ankle. She was later pulled out of the final rotation to prevent further injury.
“It was tough to see her go through those struggles, but it made her stronger,” Hawkins said. “She was more determined to achieve her ultimate goal; becoming an Olympian.”
Douglas competed at the Visa Championships in June. She won two other medals: bronze for floor, and gold for uneven bars. She also gained a spot on the American women’s Olympic gymnastics team during the Olympic trials.
“I always tell my daughter to just have fun when she competes,” Hawkins said. “This is your sport, and you love to do it, so just go out there and enjoy it. How many other times are you going to get to compete at the Olympics? Soak up every minute of it; push out all distractions.
“Fear is crippling; there's nothing to be afraid of. You’ve trained for this moment. You’re going to be nervous, but let it fuel and feed your desire to go out there and get what you want. That has always been the advice that I gave her and she has always risen to the occasion.”
Douglas is scheduled to take part in the uneven bars on Monday and balance beam on Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
There was a time, not so long ago actually, when the crowning of an African-American Olympic champion in gymnastics seemed as likely as the election of an African-American President of the United States.
Now, in 2012, despite seemingly insurmountable odds, both are a reality.
Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas, the 16-year-old Virginia Beach native who dared to be great and made history in the process, comes to Philadelphia in the Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions, taking place at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday, November 9 at 7:30 p.m.
“We're just all enjoying it so much, because it's so much fun,” Douglas said from Kansas City, Mo., one of 40 stops on the Kellogg's tour. For the two-time gold medalist, interacting with her fans is the high point of the experience.
“Just going around and performing between different cities and just interacting with the crowd - coming up to little girls and giving them a high five. They get so excited, so it makes me happy because they're like 'Oh my God! She like touched my hand!' I remember when I was in their position, so it's really cool.”
After winning the team gold medal in women's gymnastics for the USA at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Douglas, a member of the decorated “Furious Five,” became the first African American, male or female, to win the gymnastics all-around championship, placing her name in the history books in the process.
Leading up to the Olympics, the tough and talented Jordyn Wieber of DeWitt, Mich. had been all but anointed as America's new gymnastics sweetheart when Douglas, who had been silently chasing the reigning World Champion all season long, won the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials and earned an automatic berth on the team.
In London, Wieber failed to place between the top two U.S. gymnasts in the first round of team competition, thus failing to qualify for the all-around competition.
Douglas, a sweet, but clearly determined young lady, reflected on the fact her name would now be inscribed among pioneers such as Jesse Owens, Althea Gibson, Wilma Rudolph, Debi Thomas, and yes, President Barack Obama.
“That makes me feel just amazing!” Douglas said. “I was thinking about the Olympics because I wanted to inspire young girls and everyone, so for me to come back from the Olympics and take that away and just say, 'Boy! I'm just so glad I got to inspire people!' That was really my goal. I didn't think about winning. No matter what color the medal was, no matter what the outcome was, I knew that I could go home and say I gave it 100 percent. I'm an Olympian and I went to the Olympics.”
Although Douglas has reached the pinnacle of her sport at such a young age, it's exciting to know that she has every intention of defending her title in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016.
“I'm planning on doing two Olympics,” she said. “I think I can upgrade my routines a little bit more and I know what I capable of doing. I feel I can gain more. I feel I can go to more world championships - upgrade my bars and my floor [exercise]. Just do more upgraded skills.”
Douglas and I also discussed another rather strong incentive for returning to the Olympics. While she reached her career goal of Olympic gold, her personal goal of scoring face time with Usain Bolt went unfulfilled.
“I didn't get to meet him, but it's alright (not!),” she said. “I just love Usain Bolt! I just really respect him and what he does. He's just a really awesome man! Like, I love him! He just goes after what he wants. Like...he's awesome!”
Douglas was reminded that with Bolt, also planning to compete in Rio, her second chance was quite possible.
“Yeah! Definitely! I hope so!” she said.
For now however, knowing that she influenced her sport in such a positive way is enough.
“I think a lot of people are getting into the world of gymnastics, and African Americans are now starting to enroll in the program, which I think is amazing, because I've grown up with difficulties and it's not about proving people wrong. It's about proving myself right, and knowing that I could do it,” Douglas said.
While Douglas was halfway around the world winning Olympic gold and glory for her country, social media was abuzz with a running commentary on her hair, which apparently didn't measure up to the standard set by certain individuals.
“You know what? I really didn't know what they were talking about!” Douglas said. “I had a little bit of an idea, but it really didn't phase me. I knew that they were talking about my hair, after the Olympics. I was like, 'Oh! They were talking about my hair? Whatever!' It kind of hurt me a little bit because, Come on guys! I made history and you're worried about my hair?’
“My whole point about it is, I don't think they [have a] perspective of gymnastics,” she added. “I don't carry a hairbrush because there's not a lot of time to fix my hair between the events. My whole thing is, I'm here to do a job. I'm here to do business, not a beauty pageant, and I sweat so the gel and the hairspray kind of comes out - and it kind of frizzed up. I don't know if they were talking about that? But I didn't let it phase me. I know I had a job in London that I had to get done, and if you have a goal - if you have a dream, you won't let anything or anyone stop you. If they talk, I say, 'Let 'em talk!'”
Now enjoying the fruits of her labor, but with her eye squarely on the next prize, Gabrielle Douglas, Olympic champion, had a clear and concise message for Tribune readers and said, “My message to pass down is, 'Don't let anything or anyone stop you from what you are accomplishing,” she said. “Always follow your dreams, because the worse thing in life is regret. You never want to go back and say, 'I wish I could have done that' or 'I knew I could have done that.' You never want to live with regret, so always keep pushing yourself, and go 100 percent, and have fun and love what you do, because if you have fun, it is so much easier! You don't think about the pressure or anything. You just think about, 'I'm going to perform for the crowd and show them what I'm capable of doing!
“I want the readers to be inspired - to be motivated, and I want them to take away, 'If Gabby can do it, then I can do it, because anything is possible if you set your mind to it. So I want them to take away, 'I'm not going to let anything or anyone stop me. I'm accomplishing my dream,' because young girls out there have so much talent, and so many people have brought them down. Everyone's going to have haters. Everyone's going to have people that don't like them, and you have to learn how to not deal with it. And like I said, it's not exactly about proving them wrong. It's about proving myself right.”
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Now that she’s on her way to the Olympics, Gabby Douglas has a new goal.
“I’m hoping I can catch an accent,” she said. “I’ve always wanted an accent.”
Look out London. The 16-year-old whose “Flying Squirrel” nickname might be the only thing more appealing than her personality or her high-flying uneven bars routine is ready to take on a new continent after upsetting world champion Jordyn Wieber to win the Olympic trials Sunday night.
Oh, she’s bringing friends, too. Led by the 1-2 punch of Douglas and Wieber, this will be the strongest team the Americans have had since 1996, one that will be not just favored but expected to bring home only the second Olympic team gold.
McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman, who were with Douglas and Wieber on the U.S. team that won the title at last fall’s world championships, also made the team, as did Kyla Ross.
“This is a very strong team. I feel this team is even stronger than four years ago,” said Douglas’ coach, Liang Chow.
Considering that 2008 squad had Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson and Alicia Sacramone, that’s a pretty bold statement. After seeing Douglas’ stunning ascension over the last six months, however, no one should bet against her and the Americans.
“You want to peak at the right time,” Douglas said. “And also still be awesome and great.”
Douglas convinced her mother to let her leave her hometown of Virginia Beach, Va., almost two years ago to move to Iowa and train with Chow, Johnson’s coach. Though she was a member of that world team, few would have ever guessed that she, rather than Russia’s Aliya Mustafina or Viktoria Komova, would present the biggest challenge to Wieber.
But she raised eyebrows at the American Cup in March by beating Wieber. Never mind that her scores didn’t count because she was competing as an alternate. She came up just short at nationals last month, and again the first night of trials.
On Sunday night, however, Douglas would not be denied again.
She opened with a massive vault, soaring high above the table with her legs pencil-straight and body tightly coiled, and she needed only a small hop to the side to steady herself on her landing. She broke into a big grin as she thrust her hands in the air, and she trotted off the podium with her fists still raised. Her score of 16 — including a huge 9.5 for execution — moved her into first place, a spot she never relinquished.
She extended the lead on uneven bars, her signature event. Douglas is so light and quick as she flies between the bars that U.S. women’s team coordinator Martha Karolyi has dubbed her the “Flying Squirrel,” and she gets such great height on her release moves she could have dusted off the Jumbotron. But it is her grace that makes her stand out, looking like a ballerina in a jewelry box as she pirouetted on the high bar. There’s some hard-core steel beneath that pretty package, however. On one transition, Douglas’ hand seemed to slip on the bar, something that would have made most gymnasts go flying. But she kept right on going, never even hesitating.
When she landed her dismount, the arena responded with a roar that was probably heard in San Francisco. Her score of 15.9 gave her a 1.35-point lead over Wieber with two events left.
But balance beam has been giving Douglas problems all month — a fall the second day of the U.S. championships cost her the title — and Sunday night was no different. She had to windmill her arms to stay upright after a series of back handsprings, and she rocked and swayed for another several seconds after a back somersault. Her score of 14.85 was her lowest of the two-day trials, and cut her lead to 0.6 going into the final rotation — leaving plenty of room for Wieber, who finished on vault, the highest-scoring event.
Wieber didn’t get her normal height on vault, however, and landed low, needing to take a step back to steady herself. A minor error, for sure, but it meant Douglas needed to score only a 15.25 or better on floor exercise to win.
With a show worthy of Vegas, Douglas had the crowd rocking and rolling to her techno music. Basketball players would be envious of the hops she got on her tumbling runs, yet she landed them with such security there’s got to be some glue somewhere on those feet. She pranced across the floor as if she owned the place, and never once stopped smiling.
“Winning or not winning at this meet is really secondary,” Chow said. “Clearly we saw here that her mental strength and gymnastics strength is coming along.”
When she finished, Chow greeted her with a bear hug. And that was before they saw her score: a 15.3 that gave her a total of 123.45, just enough to hold off Wieber.
“Everyone was telling me you have this great potential and you can be on top,” Douglas said. “I didn’t believe that, but everyone was just telling me to believe in myself. I did and I’m kind of up on top and it’s amazing.”
While Douglas is clearly a star on the rise, Liukin is exiting the stage — this time for good.
Hampered by shoulder problems and a clock that wouldn’t stop ticking, Liukin never returned to the form that made her the 2008 Olympic champion. She fell on uneven bars, her signature event, when her fingertips could only brush the bar after a release move, and needed to take a step back after landing her dismount on the edge of the mat.
But she refused to quit, and the crowd gave her a standing ovation. She finished off her career with a respectable routine on balance beam. As she walked off the podium, her father and coach, Valeri, greeted her with a kiss and fans began to stand once again.
Tears filled Liukin’s eyes as she waved and said goodbye, to the crowd, her comeback and a career that includes five Olympic medals and four world titles.
“Of course I wanted to go out and put two good performances out there and end my career that way, so it’s a little upsetting,” Liukin said. “Today is something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It can easily compare to winning the all-around gold medal to me. Those are pretty much the two highlights of my career ... winning an all-around gold medal and getting a standing ovation not once but twice.” — (AP)
American gymnast Gabby Douglas, winner of gymnastics most coveted prize, the all-around gold medal from the Summer Olympics in London, brings her “flying squirrel” routine to the Wells Fargo Center on November 9 as part of The 2012 Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions.
In addition to Douglas, the tour will include fellow Olympians: Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Kyla Ross, Jake Dalton, Jonathan Horton, Danell Leyva, Sam Mikulak and John Orozco. Additionally, the tour will include 2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin, members of the men’s and women’s 2011 World Championships, along with past Olympians and U.S. medalists in men’s, women’s rhythmic and acrobatic gymnastics and trampoline and tumbling.
For ticket information call 1 (800)-298-4200.
Former student-athletes at Lincoln University
Lincoln University’s athletic department cordially invites former student athletes to attend the opening ceremony of the new outdoor complex at 5 p.m. on August 31. The event will commemorate another historic moment in Lincoln’s rich history.
On Saturday, Sept. 1, Lincoln will face Cheyney University in the annual “Battle of the First.” Tailgating begins at 9 a.m. The gates to the new stadium will open at 11 a.m. as the football game will cap the weekend activities.
The athletic department is looking to “Pack the DEN” with former student-athletes and friends of Lincoln University’s athletics program.
Five Owls to receive preseason All-Big East honors
College Sports Madness has five Temple football players as members of its preseason All-Big East Conference teams. Junior defensive tackle Levi Brown is the only Owl named to the All-Big East first team.
All-Big East second team honorees are seniors Matt Brown (running back) and Justin Gildea (safety). Earning third-team recognition are seniors offensive lineman Martin Wallace, placekicker Brandon McManus and Brown at kick returner.
Under the guidance of second-year head coach Steve Addazio, this season’s squad returns 35 lettermen, including nine starters. Temple opens the season with Villanova in the fourth annual Mayor’s Cup on Friday, August 31 at Lincoln Financial Field.