By Steve Keating
LONDON, July 26 (Reuters) – Team mates one day, heated rivals the next, American gymnasts Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber may not be Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte but their showdown for the Olympic all-around gold could provide the London Games with one of its great moments.
Douglas, the tiny, bubbly 16-year-old sensation dubbed the “Flying Squirrel” is sure to become an instant Olympic favorite and could also walk away a multiple medal winner having established her credentials with an upset victory over Wieber at the U.S. trials.
Wieber may only be five months older than Douglas but the 17-year-old exudes a stoic intensity and maturity that has already carried her to a world all-around title.
Douglas and Wieber will combine forces with three team mates to try and help the U.S. claim the gold medal in the team event for the first time since 1996. However, it is their head-to-head battle for the all-around crown that has provided a mouth-watering rivalry to match Phelps and Lochte in the pool or Jamaican sprinters Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt on the track.
Their contrasting styles and personalities should add even more spice to a competition that is among the Games most anticipated events.
Douglas assures she and Wieber are the best of friends away from the gym but on the floor may the best gymnast win.
“We’re best friends off the floor but on the floor it’s kind of everyone for themselves,” Douglas told reporters. “We want each other to do the very best… want to wish each other the very best.
“We just push each other to be better and do greater things. We just go out there and try to perform and do our very best.
“It’s going to be a good one.
“I’m just going to go out there enjoy it and take it all in.”
Cool, confident and focused on the task ahead, it is easy to forget that Douglas is just 16 until her teenage sensibilities betray her.
Unable to contain her excitement, Douglas’s eyes widened as she described the athletes village, explaining how she just missed meeting Bolt and hoping to ride the London Eye.
But one thing Douglas will not experience at her first Olympics will be marching in for Friday’s opening ceremony as coaches have decided the team should follow proceedings from the comfort of a couch with their first competition just days away.
“It feels so amazing seeing the Olympic rings everywhere, it’s like, ‘WOW I finally made it’.
“I’ve come so far and I’m going to keep striving towards my dream.
“I have nerves here and there but they are the good kind of nerves.”