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5 reasons to love gymnastics star Gabby Douglas

August 02, 2012|RedEye

Mary Lou Retton. Carly Patterson. Nastia Liukin. These names are synonymous with gymnastics greatness because they won Olympic all-around titles. Well, you can add one more American to that list: Gabby Douglas.

The 16-year-old topped the field with a score of 62.232, less than three-tenths of a point better than Viktoria Komova of Russia. (Aliya Mustafina took the bronze in a tiebreaker over American Aly Raisman.)

Douglas might not be done collecting hardware, either. She's slated to compete in the finals of the uneven bars Monday and the balance beam Tuesday.

Here are five reasons to love the United States' newest gymnastics queen, who also made history as the first African-American woman to win the all-around.

She's got a great nickname

Martha Karolyi, the U.S. women's gymnastics team coordinator and wife of former U.S. coach Bela Karolyi, dubbed Douglas "The Flying Squirrel" for the way she effortlessly soars on the uneven bars. Incidentally, fellow Olympian and Oak Park native Ellis Coleman also goes by that nickname; he's competing in wrestling in these Games.

She can handle pain

Douglas missed the 2009 U.S. gymnastics championships with a broken wrist and was slowed by hamstring and hip flexor injuries in 2010. Given how much you need, well, every muscle in your body to excel in the sport, it makes her gold medal that much more impressive.

She acts like a grown-up when she has to …

Two years ago, Douglas talked her parents into letting her move from Virginia Beach, Va., to live with a foster family in Iowa. She did so in order to train with the coach of former Olympian Shawn Johnson. It was an awfully mature decision for a teenager.

… but reminds us she's a kid, too.

The megawatt smile, the rapid-fire giggles and interview dialogue, the way she supports her teammates—Douglas never seems jaded by success. You can even tell she's beaming on Twitter (@gabrielledoug). "Just talked to the President of the United States!!! WOW such and honor and a amazing feeling!! #thankyou," she tweeted about President Obama. Here's hoping that never changes, kiddo.

She can make fun of herself

In an interview for nbcolympics.com, Douglas told her favorite fishing story, which involved her not being able to catch a fish because she didn't realize she had to put bait on her hook. "So [my dad] puts a worm on my hook and as soon as the hook hits the water and the bait and the fish smell it, I got a fish," she told the website. "I was so proud I got a fish, but I was so dumb that I didn't have anything on my hook."

Sources: reuters, nbcolympics.com, The Washington Post

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