The Flying Squirrel took flight into Olympic history.
Gabby Douglas became the third straight U.S. gymnast to win an Olympic all-around gold medal on Thursday. She tallied 62.232 points to win the gold medal. Douglas finished comfortably ahead of Russian gymnast Viktoria Komova, who scored 61.973 points to win the silver medal. Russia's Aliya Mustafina scored 59.566 points to win bronze, after prevailing in a tiebreaker with U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman.
It is the second gold medal for Douglas. She played a huge role in helping Team USA clinch its first team gold medal in women's gymnastics since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. With her bright smile and carefree personality, Douglas is certain to become a media sensation akin to Mary Lou Retton after she claimed an all-around gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
What stands out most about Douglas completing her meteoric rise to the top of the gymnastics world is how easy she made it look in the all-around competition. Douglas made no major mistakes to threaten her lead on any apparatus. She set a perfect tone for herself from the beginning. Douglas opened things up by scoring 15.966 on the vault. It gave her a lead that she never relinquished.
There are so many historical milestones involved in Douglas winning the all-around. She became the first U.S. gymnast to win an all-around gold medal and team gold medal during the same Olympics. Douglas is also the first African-American gymnast to win an all-around gold.
How everything played out for Douglas is so magical it seems like it was pulled from the pages of a Hollywood screenplay. A year ago at this time, Douglas was a virtual unknown, even in gymnastics circles. That all changed when she beat reigning all-around world champion Jordyn Wieber at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Suddenly, she had emerged as a potential threat to win gold.
Douglas lived up to that potential by taking an unorthodox approach. She did not succumb to teary eyes and get emotional at a moment's notice like many of her fellow gymnasts. Douglas charmed everyone with her smile, her calm demeanor and her confident attitude. Her gymnastics resume may have been filled with a shorter list of accomplishments than many of her teammates and competitors, but Douglas showed nothing that happened beforehand mattered once she was in London.
No one could have scripted a better outcome for Douglas. Whatever happens in the individual event finals that still lay ahead, her Olympic legacy is secure. Douglas will be an Olympic icon to future generations.
John Coon has covered gymnastics as a sports reporter for many publications and wire services. He and his girlfriend have also been past season ticket holders for University of Utah gymnastics meets.