Many are predicting that Gabby Douglas could win the women's Olympic All-Around crown. I am one of those people who believes she's got a great shot.
If you were to ask me a year ago if I thought this phenom from the USA could put it all together and be the favourite heading in to the Olympic Games, I may have been a bit hesitant to say yes. Sure, she had an incredible line and tons of potential, but there were still a lot of little details that needed some ironing out. Some of her skills were a little wild and unpolished and her mental game was definitely questionable.
After a meltdown on beam at the 2011 US National Championships, it was hard to have faith in the psychological capacity of Gabby Douglas. Balking (read: literally freezing before a skill and not going for it) more than once in a single beam routine doesn't often bode well for your reputation. Especially when your every move is being watched and recorded by the USAG staff. I'll admit, I was a bit skeptical when Gabby was put onto the 2011 Worlds team. I wondered, "How can they trust that she won't have a brain fart during Worlds"? Having competed at both a National Championship (albeit, not a US Championships which is a wee bit grander than the good ol' Canadian Champs!) and World Championship on numerous occasions myself, I know that the pressure and magnifying glass at the latter is far superior.
But Gabby Douglas delivered at those World Championships and I ate my words. Not only did she help her US Team to a Gold Medal, but she was 5th All-Around in qualification and made the finals on Uneven Bars. This was her launching pad and she hasn't looked back since.
When I was in NYC for the American Cup, I was blown away by how much Gabby had improved in 5 short months. Her lines were longer, her toe point was sharper, she had gained control of her power and her presence seemed confident and poised. She did not look like the Gabby Douglas who had stood flustered and paralyzed at the end of the beam in the summer of 2011. She looked like the Gabby Douglas who was going to take the world by storm in 2012.
Even though she was an exhibition competitor, she eventually scored the highest out of everyone at the competition and the 'Flying Squirrel' had the entire gymnastics community buzzing with excitement. The buzz was not without some reservations though. Many still wondered if this was a flash in the pan or if she'd slowly begin to crumble as the Olympic Games came closer. The pressure would eat her up, right? She peaked too early, right? She still has to prove herself.
Well, prove herself she has. She's kept on plugging through this year and she's kept on steadily improving. A small ankle injury at the Pacific Rim Championships was just a speed bump in her progress. She has the highest difficulty value out of everyone heading in to the Olympics and her execution keeps getting more and more polished. And after recently winning the 2012 US Olympic Trials, she has become one of the front runners for Olympic Gold in the Women's AA.
What do I love most about Gabby Douglas? I love how much joy she brings to the competition floor. Her smile is vibrant and she seems as if she is genuinely happy and appreciative for the opportunity to show off her hard work. Because believe me, the progress she's made in this past year in terms of her increase in difficulty, her improved mental strength, her polished quality of gymnastics and the performance value she brings to her routines is all because of hard work. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Gabby will face tough competition from Jordyn Weiber (USA), Yao Jinnan (CHN), Larisa Iordache (ROM), Huang Quishang (CHN), Viktoria Komova (RUS) and Aliya Mustafina (RUS) for the Individual All-Around title. I've got a feeling it's going to be a battle royale and I am nearly exploding with anticipation and excitement that I get to call it all with www.CTVOlympics.ca. If everyone hits on the day (which I desperately hope everyone does) then I think Gabby just might have a new title to add to her resume: Olympic Champion.