You know in your heart that Gabby Douglas is the most amazing high-flying hero Olympic gymnastics champion, maybe ever. But you need to understand it with your head, too, with a rational and objective analysis of her talent through GIFs. What if you got into a bar argument with a disappointed Russian? You'd need more than chants of U-S-A, U-S-A. You'd need facts.
Unlike the gymnastics team final, the all-around final really was as close as NBC's prime time coverage made it seem. Russia's Viktoria Komova had outscored Douglas in prelims. Both Douglas and Komova perform some of the most difficult tricks, and they both do them with the perfect body position that makes for pleasing geometry in the air. What Douglas has on Komova is an incredible athleticism that makes her skills go higher and just look bigger.
Both Douglas and Komova competed the dangerous and difficult Amanars. Komova hadn't been able to throw hers since she was 14, after a foot injury and growth spurt. (Yes, she used to be even tinier.) So it's quite impressive she was able to get it back. Still, Thursday night she didn't quite have enough power, and gave away several tenths of a point on a bunch of steps on the landing.
See how she just sort of strolls off to the side? Every little step is a deduction. She got a 15.466. Now watch Douglas. She had the same straight legs, but more height and more power. And unlike Komova, she fought to keep from taking any extra steps on her landing.
She scored a 15.966.
Douglas is the only American who can come close to competing with the Russians and Chinese on bars. It's not just that she has difficult moves, it's that she makes it look easy with perfectly straight legs. She hits all her handstands. Here are her pirouettes, which are not as flashy as release moves but can be just as difficult.
And then she has the huge release moves:
She gets so much upward momentum that she doesn't quite have enough backwards momentum. You can see her move her legs slightly to her right -- that's to keep them from hitting the bar. But the judges are looking on from the side, and probably couldn't see that.
Komova, doing this trick from the opposite direction, just doesn't go quite has high.
As impressive as she is, Douglas still has a much lower potential score on this event than Komova, and she had to minimize the lead Komova was expected to get here. She did: Douglas scored a 15.733, much better than the 15.333 she earned in the team final. Komova scored better, a 15.966, but only 0.1 better than her prelims score. So unexpectedly, Douglas kept the lead after two events.
A little background for why everyone is making such a fuss about Douglas not suffering a mental breakdown on beam: Only a year and a half ago, Douglas made a big mental mistake on beam. At 2011 national championships, when she was going for her dismount, she balked. (Seen at left.) Multiple times. It was considered deadly for her career. Balking is not just a big deduction, it can be dangerous. And Marta Karolyi, the national team coordinator, does not like putting women on the team who crumble on the beam. She sees it as a sign of mental weakness.
But Douglas showed no weakness. She's performed all three beam routines at the Olympics brilliantly. On her full-twisting back tuck, she could have come off the beam. She was being pulled sideways, but she held on with her toes.
Compare that to how Russia's Aliya Mustafina sort of jumped off after her standing Arabian. (That's a back flip with a very early half twist, making it sort of a front flip.)
Douglas had a few small wobbles, but got more and more solid as she continued her routine.
She scored a 15.5, again better than her team final score of 15.233. Komova did the opposite: started out stronger and had more wobbles toward the end.
But no matter how patriotic you are (or blindly nationalistic, whatever, it's the Olympics!), you have to appreciate Komova's beauty in the air:
She scored a 15.441, also better than her team final score, by about 0.4.
Both Komova and Douglas had errors on floor in prelims -- Komova scored a 13.9 Sunday and Douglas scored a 13.733. But they had difference kinds of errors -- Komova got deductions on her landings because of a lack of energy, while Douglas got deductions for having too much and stumbling out of bounds. Floor is another event where you can see Douglas's advantage in power over Komova. Unlike most powerful gymnasts -- think her teammate Aly Raisman -- Douglas has beautiful form in the air. On twisting skills, it's really easy to let your legs cross over each other, or let the lead knee bend a little. Douglas doesn't do that on her one-and-a-half twisting flip, which she steps out of to tumble into a triple-twisting flip.
And since she's grown more confident over the last year, she's learned to play to the crowd. Judges can't help but be influenced by an arena of screaming fans. When she finished, you could see she knew she had it.
Douglas got a 15.033. Komova was last up. She usually runs out of steam when floor is her last event, but her tumbling passes were much better than usual:
And yes, you do get more points for having prettier dance moves:
Komova thought she'd won gold too:
But when her score finally came up, she had not. She got a 15.1, giving her an all-around total of 61.973. Douglas got a 62.232, the highest all-around score since Beijing.
I don't know exactly what an "America's sweetheart" is. That is the term sports reporters and prime time packages are giving Douglas. But Douglas certainly has the potential to be a beloved cultural figure. She has a warm personality, is quick to smile, and is a little more honest than your typical media-trained Olympian. She's overcome a lot of hardship, like being separated from her family and having her dad in Afghanistan. You lefties will love that she's the first African-American gymnastics champion. You righties will love her response: "Someone mentioned that I was the first black American, and I said, 'Oh, yeah, I forgot about that!'"
Want more gymnastics? Check out our other GIF guides:
- What to Watch For in the Women's Gymnastics All-Around Finals, in GIFs
- How the U.S. Gymnastics Team Crushed the Russians: A GIF Guide
- The Weird End to the Men's Gymnastics Team Final: A GIF Guide
- Why Jordyn Wieber Didn't Make It: A GIF Guide
- A GIF Guide to the U.S. Gymnastics Team's Biggest Rivals
- Get to Know Your U.S. Gymnastics Team Through GIFs
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.