Douglas and Wieber book London berths
U.S. gymnasts Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Alexandra Raisman and Gabrielle Douglas (L-R) cry as they are introduced as members of the U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team at the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials in San Jose, California, July 1, 2012. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)
By Mark Lamport-Stokes
SAN JOSE, California, July 1 (Reuters) – An emotional Gabby Douglas earned the first spot on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team for the London Games by overhauling favorite Jordyn Wieber to win the all-around title at the Olympic trials on Sunday.
Teenager Douglas completed the two-day competition with an overall score of 123.450 after outshining world all-around champion Wieber, who finished close behind in second on 123.350 in front of a sell-out crowd of 17,526 at the HP Pavilion.
Runner-up to Wieber in the battle for the U.S. all-around title last month, the effervescent Douglas needed to score higher than 15.200 in her final routine of the night, and she dazzled on the floor exercise to earn 15.300.
“I just wanted to go out there and perform as best as I could,” Douglas, waving her arms while her eyes flashed brightly, told Reuters of her final event. “After my floor routine, I was like, ‘Yes.’ I was just so happy at that moment.
“All those years of training and hard work have paid off. Man, I’ve been so emotional. I don’t know to put it into words. I just can’t wait to wear those red, white and blue stripes down my back,” the 16-year-old said.
Alexandra Raisman was third in the overall standings on 120.950 with Elizabeth Price fourth (120.100) and Kyla Ross fifth (120.000).
The atmosphere in the HP Pavilion was electrifying as the crowd then waited for the final four Olympic spots, decided by a USA Gymnastics selection committee, to be announced.
Mexican waves rippled around the arena before USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny slowly read out the additional names – vault specialist McKayla Maroney, Raisman, Ross and Wieber.
The women’s team was then brought up on to the stage to be formally introduced as confetti reigned down upon them with chants of “USA, USA, USA” ringing out from the fans.
“It was pretty much the happiest moment of my life,” Wieber, also 16, told Reuters. “It was just an amazing feeling knowing that we are all a team and we are all going to be going to London together and representing the United States.”
Raisman, who won the balance beam and floor exercise at last month’s U.S. national championships, was also caught up in the moment.
“It was really cool, and especially to be able to share the experience with my best friends,” the 18-year-old said. “We were all just so excited. This has been my dream ever since I was a little girl.”
Wieber had led Douglas by 0.300 going into the final day of competition but Douglas, nicknamed the ‘Flying Squirrel’, immediately edged ahead when she nailed her opening routine on the vault with a near flawless Amanar to earn 16.000.
Soon after, Wieber gained a score of 15.350 on uneven bars to remain in second place.
Wieber, wearing a glittering purple leotard, had a slight early wobble on the balance beam before being awarded 15.350 and Douglas capitalized when she earned 15.900 with a fluent display on uneven bars.
Trailing by 1.35 with two events left, Wieber laid down a marker to Douglas with a captivating floor routine of power, grace and agility to gain 15.600.
“That was the highest score I have ever got on floor and I just had so much fun going out there and performing,” Wieber said of her high-octane routine. “That was the highlight of my day.”
Douglas almost fell off the treacherous balance beam early on but recovered well to eke out a score of 14.850, though her lead was cut to 0.6.
In her final routine of the night, Wieber piled on the pressure with a strong vault to earn 15.800, despite a slight hop on landing.
With the all-around competition on the line, Douglas then delivered in champion style, oozing flair and athleticism on the floor for a score of 15.300 to claim the title and a place at the Olympics.
“I told myself, ‘I’m going to go to floor and just rock it and perform.’ And I did it on floor. I was just awesome,” Douglas said.