2012 SUMMER OLYMPICS Athletes to watch
By Amy Van Deusen
ABOVE PHOTO: Gabrielle Douglas.
Gabrielle Douglas was a member of the 2011 World team that won gold, and a strong contender for the 2012 US Olympic team.
Douglas’ first elite competition was in 2010, at the CoverGirl US Classic. At that meet she qualified to the junior US Championships, and placed a very impressive fourth all-around at nationals that year. Douglas was named to the 2010 Pan American Championships team, where she took first on bars and helped USA win the team competition.
After her early success as an elite, Douglas decided to switch coaches. She met Liang Chow, coach of 2008 Olympian Shawn Johnson, at a coaching clinic and moved to Iowa to work with him at his gym, Chow’s Gymnastics and Dance. She now trains alongside Johnson, who is making a comeback for 2012.
Douglas had a tough competition at the 2011 US nationals due to a hamstring injury. Though she competed all four events both days, she counted multiple falls each day of competition. With more training time after nationals and after injuries to some veteran gymnasts (Mackenzie Caquatto, Rebecca Bross, and Chellsie Memmel), Douglas was named to the traveling squad for worlds. Though originally the alternate, when an abdominal injury sidelined Anna Li, Douglas ended up on the roster.
Douglas was born on December 31, 1995 – the last possible day to be age eligible to compete at the 2011 worlds. Not surprisingly, she was the youngest member of Team USA, though it was a very young team: Only one competing member (Alexandra Raisman) had competed at worlds before, and Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Sabrina Vega, and Jordyn Wieber were all in their first year of senior competition (meaning they were age 15 or 16 at worlds).
Despite her roundabout path to the team, Douglas excelled at her first worlds. She competed on all four events in prelims and ended up fifth all-around after the competition was over. Unfortunately, due to the two-per-country rule, only two US gymnasts could advance to the all-around finals. Wieber and Raisman ranked higher (second and fourth, respectively). Douglas did qualify to the bars finals, however, and placed fifth, even with an error.
Douglas has one of the best bar routines in the US, which is arguably the weakest event for the American team. This helps her chances for the 2012 Olympic team, though she’s also valuable because she can fill in on the other events if need be.