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Stretching Out: Reaping the Rewards of Confidence
(26 votes, average 3.77 out of 5)

When Gabrielle Douglas moved from Virginia to Iowa in October 2010, her new coach, Liang Chow, was impressed by something other than her gymnastics potential.

"I give her a lot of credit," Chow told me then. "At only 14 years old, she moved over by herself, without her mom or family."

After about 16 months with Chow, Douglas has now moved into a new level of gymnastics. While many gymnasts struggle for that little bit extra, Douglas has the rare luxury of amplitude to spare. She's flexible, light on her feet and dynamic in her swing. Oh, if only compulsories were still around.

Her 'winning' exhibition performance at the American Cup in Madison Square Garden was certainly compelling stuff, but also shouldn't be taken too seriously just yet. What we can take from her 61.299 is that it included the highest combined D-score by quite a margin (25.5: VT/6.5, UB/6.5, BB/6.5, FX/6.0).

American Cup champion Jordyn Wieber had 24.8, and runner-up Alexandra Raisman had 24.9. Those numbers are not set in stone, of course, as each of those gymnasts probably lost a connection here or there. Chow says Douglas was supposed to have a 6.1 on floor, but did not receive credit for a dance element.

With the math clearly in her favor, however, Douglas has to be considered an all-arounder contender for the 2012 Olympics. And Chow is pleased that his budding star got the chance to show her new program this early in the season.

"I was just so glad we got the opportunity to be in front of people, in front of the international judges and to demonstrate where she is after the winter training," he said. "So that was a real good testing for us, testing the new routines. And I think that also built up her confidence."

Last August, at the Visa championships, Douglas appeared to be in over her head. And at times, she was hard to watch, especially after that one balky beam routine that required three attempts to complete the dismount.

"Visas was really rough," Douglas told me. "I was just not even confident in myself, like I just wanted to give up and just not do it."

Then she regrouped and became one of the bright spots of the U.S. team at the Tokyo world championships, where she helped the team win gold and qualified to the uneven bars final.

Don't believe what Douglas presented last week in New York is a finished product, either. Now that he's had her in his gym for a while, Chow believes Douglas is finally ready to blossom.

"I think this year she's getting much more mature, physically and mentally," he said. "And she can understand pursuing and focusing on her dreams, or working on her goals on a daily basis instead of like last year. I feel like she was a younger kid … pursuing Olympic dreams, but they don't really quite understand what it takes to get there."

Chow and Douglas will travel to Houston Friday for a training camp that will select the women's team for the Pacific Rim Championships, March 16-18. Douglas would seem a logical pick for that squad, and it's a meet she could easily end up winning.

With such great potential under his tutelage, Chow knows he still has some decisions to make. Such is Douglas's wide range of abilities. More upgrades are in store, and each competition between now and the Olympics will be used to gauge the progress.

"We're definitely shooting for the maximum possibilities at this point," Chow said.

Douglas, meanwhile, has never felt better about her gymnastics.

"I just love that I'm so confident in myself from worlds," she said. "I think it's a great learning [experience] and a great journey for me on the road to London, so I'm really excited."

So are many gymnastics fans.

Read an interview with Gabrielle Douglas in the April issue of International Gymnast.

Comments (8)add comment

LS in AK said:

This gymnast has earned my respect
I really do not think it fair to say that Gabby Douglas' performance at the American Cup "shouldn't be taken too seriously just yet." She performed well in front of a huge crowd, earned the highest all-around total of any gymnast in the women's competition, and that deserves just as much respect as Jordyn Wieber's much praised third win.
March 08, 2012
Votes: +5

MeganLap said:

i really do love this gymnast. can't wait for your article about her in the April issue! smilies/smiley.gif
March 08, 2012 | url
Votes: +1

Stella said:

Way to go !
Congratulations ! Awesome performance, I look forward to seeing her compete again, she's so nice and impressive to watch.
March 09, 2012
Votes: +1

dragonair said:

wow, her leaps and jumps were so impressive, great flexibility - really nice to watch.
now if only her toepoint was better and if she learned to use her arms more elegantly then she would be a really good dancer as well. I find her dance really average but she won me with her flexibility - you don't see a lot of that in american gymnastics.
March 09, 2012
Votes: +0

Babacar said:

Such potential
It is nearly a shame she does not have one more year to prepare. What is amazing with her is her room for improvement. I think she is a very underrated beam worker and her floor has tons of room for upgrades... Just praying she stays healthy
March 09, 2012
Votes: +0

Kevin said:

Dagget needs to be canned, Gabby was 5 in prelim's at worlds, she outscored the world champion at the American cup and he, an American journalist and former gymnast, should know every athlete competing, and their complete biography, He flubbed her name repeatedly and was a shame to journalism and the USA gymnastics as well as his alma mater for presenting the international public such a mediocre job.
Elfi needs to get something done to that scowl between her eye's, she looks ancient.
They can CAN AL TOO.
Gabby was grace and hope for the next 5 years of USA gymnastics, sadly the world did not send their best, but it is an Olympic year and they want their athlete's to peak in London, not Madison Square Garden. I love the American Cup and respect it as a great vehicle to showcase athletes early in the season as diamonds in the raw before polishing and setting the stones in gold.
March 09, 2012
Votes: +0

tumblintammie said:

Being able to witness her perform in person at the American Cup, I was blown away by her confidence level now. She seems to finally realize that she deserves to be where she is.

I too agree that the comment in the article about her performance shouldn't be taken seriously is so off base. I was there for warm ups as well and she was more than consistent even in practice. Why can't she be commended for her improvement.

As for her a former gymnast, I remember when dance skills were just as important as the tumbling. But today it seems it's all about the "tricks." Let's see what happens after this Olympiad and if the Code of Points will shift again to put more weight on dance elements.
March 11, 2012
Votes: +0

Anonymous said:

I love Gabby, but I agree that she needs to hit in a couple more big meets to really cement herself as a major player....if she does, there's no reason to believe she won't be on the floor in London. Go Gabby!
March 11, 2012
Votes: +0

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