Gabrielle Douglas boldly triumphed in the women’s individual gymnastics final on Thursday to give the US their third consecutive Olympic female champion.
The 16-year-old from Virginia, known as “The Flying Squirrel,” also became the first black woman in history to lift one of the Olympics’ most prestigious title with a scintillating performance at the North Greenwich Arena.
Russia’s Viktoria Komova took silver, while Komova’s teammate Aliya Mustafina took bronze as Douglas followed in the footsteps of compatriots Carly Patterson in 2004 and Nastia Liukin, the 2008 champion.
“It kinda hasn’t sunk in yet, but it will though,” she said. “A lot was going through my mind. I was just thinking that all the hard work had paid off.”
“I was speechless, just shedding tears of joy and waving to the crowd,” Douglas added.
It is Douglas’ second gold medal at the London Games, after her role in the US’ team success, while she is also scheduled to compete in the uneven bars final on Monday and the balance beam final on Tuesday.
Douglas took the lead after the vault and held on to top spot despite a strong uneven bars routine from world champion Komova, before closing out victory with a remarkably composed display on the floor.
Komova missed out on all-around gold to a US gymnast for the second major tournament in succession, having being pipped by Jordyn Wieber, who did not qualify for the Olympic final, at last year’s World Championships.
“I’m upset because I could have won gold, but I just didn’t get it,” Komova said. “I hoped my floor routine would be good enough.”
However, Komova lavished praise on Douglas.
“She’s very strong,” she said. “She performed beautifully today. She earned her gold medal as she has performed very well over a number of days.”
The four favorites — Douglas and Aly Raisman of the US, and Komova and Mustafina of Russia — were placed in the same group and began on the vault.
As in qualifying and in the team final, the US girls shone, producing near-faultless Amanar vaults — a Yurchenko with two-and-a-half twists —— that gave Douglas a score of 15.966 and Raisman 15.900.
Komova stumbled badly on landing to receive a mark of 15.466, while Mustafina’s score of 15.233 meant that the two Americans headed to the uneven bars with an early advantage.
Komova is the reigning world uneven bars champion and her display on that apparatus yielded a score of 15.966 that momentarily took her up to second, but Douglas scored 15.733 to remain top at the half-way stage.
Mustafina’s gold medal ambitions died when she came off the balance beam in the third rotation, but Douglas scored 15.500 to stay ahead of Komova, to the audible delight of the many US fans in the crowd.
Douglas did not put a foot wrong in her bold and brassy floor routine, but even though she was outscored by Komova moments later, it was not enough for the Russian to snatch the gold.