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LONDON — It took tremendous courage for Gabby Douglas to move away from home at 14, leaving her beloved mother and siblings behind in Virginia Beach, to train with a world-class coach who would push her to excel.

And it took untold practice, sacrifice and pain for Douglas and Liang Chow to transform this better-than-average gymnast with bigger-than-average dreams into a bona-fide Olympian in less than two years’ time.

 

Thursday at the London Games, Douglas demonstrated that the world likely hasn’t seen the limit of what this uncommonly self-possessed youngster can do by winning the sport’s most prestigious title: the individual all-around Olympic gold medal.

Douglas seized the lead at the outset with the world’s most difficult vault and then stood tall, at 4 feet 11, to fend off a charge by two formidable Russians, delivering a performance that was packed with power, grace and a palpable joy that women’s gymnastics sorely lacks.

“You just have to not be afraid and go out there and just dominate,” Douglas said afterward, a stuffed Olympic mascot under one arm, a bouquet of flowers in one hand and an Olympic gold medal around her neck. “You have to go out there and be a beast. Because if you don’t, you’re not going to be on the top.”

Douglas, who finished with 62.232 points, became the third consecutive American woman to win the coveted individual all-around gold, following Nastia Liukin, the 2008 Beijing champion, and Carly Patterson, who triumphed at the 2004 Athens Games.

She’s also the first African-American to win the all-around title. It was Douglas’s second gold medal in 48 hours, coming on the heels of the U.S. women’s team championship Tuesday.

Russia’s Viktoria Komova, an elegant gymnast who had been chasing Douglas all night, took silver, breaking down in uncontrollable sobs when the scoreboard showed that her final routine, an inspired performance on the floor, wasn’t enough to vault her into gold. Komova finished with 61.973.

American Aly Raisman, 18, a surprising qualifier for Thursday’s final, earned the same score as Russia’s Aliya Mustafina (59.566), leaving them tied them for the bronze medal. But under the sport’s international code, such ties are broken by a rule that neither Raisman nor her coach, Mihai Brestyan, was aware of.

In short: the lowest score of each gymnast is dropped, then the remaining three scores are added together to settle it. After that calculation, Mustafina held the edge, with 45.933 to Raisman’s 45.366.

Raisman was given no official explanation and walked off the floor still hopeful of a shared bronze. A journalist broke the news.

“I was hoping that they’d given us both the bronze medal, but obviously they didn’t,” said Raisman, of Needham, Mass., who had outperformed her best friend and teammate Jordyn Wieber to earn the unexpected chance to contend for the individual title. “It’s definitely upsetting, but I’m still happy for the rest of the girls that are on the podium tonight.”

Raisman still has a chance to win two more medals, having qualified for the finals on the balance beam and floor. Douglas could also add to her London medal haul, as well, when the individual event finals are held.

 

And it took untold practice, sacrifice and pain for Douglas and Liang Chow to transform this better-than-average gymnast with bigger-than-average dreams into a bona-fide Olympian in less than two years’ time.

 

 

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