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Thursday, June 14, 2012
I'm an underdog starting to get to the top

By Gabrielle Douglas

Gabrielle Douglas
Gabrielle Douglas says she performed "the best floor routine of my life" en route to a silver-medal finish in the all-around at the 2012 U.S. gymnastics nationals.

When I opened my eyes Sunday morning, I knew right away it was going to be a great day. It was the final day of the U.S. gymnastics nationals, one of the most important meets leading up to the Olympics, but I was so calm. I've never felt that way before such a big competition.

I did very well the first day and was going into finals tied with Jordyn Wieber -- the 2011 world all-around champ. I was definitely excited to be in the top spot, but I also wanted to make sure I didn't get cocky and think, “Oh, yeah, I've got this in the bag,” or make myself nervous by focusing on winning too much. I tried to stay cool and confident, and I was able to hold that feeling all day and into warm-ups at the meet.

But then, on the first event, I messed up my layout step-out in the first few seconds of my beam routine. I was so mad at myself, thinking, “How could I fall on this easy skill?” I was especially frustrated because I made the same mistake just a few weeks earlier at the U.S. Classic. When I was done, both of my coaches, Liang Chow and Liwen Zhuang, gave me a hug and said, "Take it out of your mind. Don't even think about what went wrong, just move on. Pretend like it never happened."

And so I did. I was determined to perform the last three events as perfect as I could and to show I was a fighter. I listened to some Lil Wayne songs to pump me up and visualized the floor set I wanted to do. Then I went out and hit the best floor routine of my life. I had fun the whole time and I stuck every pass! I was so proud, and it proved to me just how powerful my mind can be. The momentum from floor just carried over to vault and bars, and in the end I was just two-tenths away from the national title, even with the fall on beam. It was an amazing day for me, and I am so pleased with how far I've come.

Last year at this same meet, I had a horrible competition and ended seventh all-around. Two years ago was the first time I made the national team. I feel like I'm the underdog who is starting to come out on top. I am so thankful to Chow, because he has shaped me into this awesome gymnast I never knew I could be. I dreamed about it, for sure, but with Chow's help, my dreams are becoming real.

You have to dream big, and I do visualize myself standing on the top of that podium in London. It's why I decided to move to Iowa almost two years ago. I had to move away from my home in Virginia Beach, Va., and live with a host family to do it, but I knew if I wanted to be the best, Chow was the coach to get me there. He coached Shawn Johnson to four Olympic medals in 2008. He knows what he is doing.

I haven't been home since I moved, and being so far from my mom and my brother and sisters (I am the youngest of four kids) was definitely a big challenge for me at first. I Skype and text and email with my family all the time, and my host family, the Partons, treat me as their own. They have four young daughters, so I had to get used to being the oldest one in this house. I try to be a role model for them as best as I can and give Leah, who's 7 and a gymnast at Chow's, gymnastics tips.

Next are the Olympic trials at the end of June in San Jose, Calif. The top all-arounder there gets an automatic spot on the Olympic team, so I'm aiming for that. As soon as I got home, I watched the TV broadcast from nationals, analyzing and criticizing my routines on each event. If I can see my errors, I can correct them. That's exactly what I intend to do. I had one of my best meets at nationals, but I can still do better at trials. I also want to prove to everyone that I can nail that beam routine!