Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman poised for all-around gymnastics Olympics battle - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman poised for all-around gymnastics Olympics battle

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Posted: Thursday, August 2, 2012 1:12 am

LONDON -- When reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber failed to qualify for the women's all-around final, the logical assumption was: This is Gabby Douglas' time.

Not only was Douglas the runner-up to Wieber at the U.S. Championships in June, but she also out-performed Wieber to win the all-around title at the U.S. Olympic Trials in July.

Then, she arrived in England and helped the U.S. women capture their first Olympic gold medal in the team competition since the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.

So the "Flying Squirrel" -- she was playfully tagged with that nickname because of her dazzling aerial moves on the uneven bars -- is on a roll as she heads into the 2012 Olympic all-around final Thursday at North Greenwich Arena.

"Everyone was telling me you have this great potential and you can be on top," Douglas, 16, said after earning her way to London with her triumph at the Trials in San Jose, Calif. "I didn't believe that, but everyone was just telling me to believe in myself.

"I did, and I'm kind of up on top and it's amazing."

She's not alone, though.

There's another American gymnast who, if she can continue her rousing run in the all-around finals, has a chance to become a star at these Games.

Aly Raisman.

She's not nearly as dynamic or flashy or charismatic as her younger teammate. Not nearly as well known, either. But she's steady, unshakable, dependable.

She's a terrific teammate, too.

In fact, Raisman, all of 18 years old, is so well liked and respected by her younger teammates that they voted her the team captain.

Make no mistake, however: She's also a talented, fiercely competitive gymnast who is peaking at the best possible time.

It was Raisman who finished the qualification round Sunday as the top American performer, compiling a score of 60.391, which put her just ahead of Douglas (60.265) and just behind Russia's Victoria Komova (60.632).

"I was OK with being under the radar," Raisman said. "I didn't feel a lot of pressure."

She didn't know what to feel after advancing to the all-around final at the expense of Wieber, who was considered a favorite to at least medal. Raisman was thrilled to qualify, but it pained her to see her teammate so devastated.

"It's really hard because we're best friends," Raisman said after Sunday's competition, "and I know how much it meant to her."

Wieber, to her credit, said she'll be rooting hard for her teammates. And with the U.S. already having won team gold, Raisman and Douglas go into Thursday brimming with confidence.

They'll likely need it.

Komova will be tough to beat, as will her teammate Aliya Mustafina, who qualified fifth behind Wieber.

Despite being one of only four competitors to post a score in the 60s in the qualification round, Wieber was denied a berth in the finals because the rules allow a maximum of only two gymnasts per nation to advance.

U.S. coach John Geddert called it an "injustice."

In an interview with USA Today, legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi -- whose wife, Martha, is the U.S. women's team coordinator -- said the two-athlete limit that deprived the world champion from competing diminishes the event.

"That is not an all-around final, no," he told the newspaper. "That is an invitational. That is an Olympic invitational."

Olympic medals, though, will be presented.

And both Raisman and Douglas, the only American to compete in all four disciplines at the team competition Tuesday and whose score (61.465) would've won the qualifying event, have put themselves in position to take one home.

The logical assumption is: at least one of them will.

Ray McNulty, sports columnist for Treasure Coast, Fla., newspapers, is part of the Scripps team covering the London Olympics. Contact him at ray.mcnulty@scripps.com.

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