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Gabrielle Douglas gets guaranteed spot on women's gymnastics team

The gymnast wins the Olympic trials over reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber. Wieber, Kyla Ross, McKayla Maroney and Aly Raisman also make the team.

July 02, 2012|By Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times
  • Gabrielle Douglas competes on the beam during the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials.
Gabrielle Douglas competes on the beam during the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics… (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images )

SAN JOSE — Gabrielle Douglas of Virginia Beach, Va., had earned the nickname "Flying Squirrel" because of her height-defying gymnastics skills.

Sunday night she also gained another descriptive title.

Olympian.

Douglas earned the guaranteed Olympic women's gymnastics spot by winning the trials over reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber before a sold-out crowd at HP Pavilion.

"All of this hard work has paid off," Douglas said. "I just can't wait to wear those red, white and blue stripes down my back. It feels like a dream come true."

As expected Wieber, of DeWitt, Mich., was named to the five-woman team and was joined by 15-year-old Kyla Ross of Aliso Viejo and 16-year-old McKayla Maroney of Long Beach, who is the reigning world vault champion, as well as Aly Raisman of Needham, Mass.

The alternates are Anna Li, an uneven bars specialist from Aurora, Ill.; Elizabeth Price from Coopersburg, Pa., who finished fourth in the all-around competition; and Sarah Finnegan of St. Louis.

"This is the most surreal feeling," the team youngster Ross said. "Hearing my name called, I couldn't believe it."

Although Price finished better in the all-around standings than Ross or Maroney, she didn't have singular standout performances. Maroney was the top vaulter in the trials and Ross tied with Douglas for best on the uneven bars and was third on balance beam.

Maroney scored a meet-high 16.150 on her soaring Amanar vault Sunday and overcame several falls she had on balance beam and floor exercise during the course of the U.S. nationals and trials. "This is the best feeling," Maroney said. "I'm in shock right now. I think this will be the happiest I'll ever be in my life."

Wieber had cut deeply into Douglas' lead, which had been almost a point and a half after the first two rotations, when she rocked a floor performance in the third rotation and scored 15.600 while Douglas had a wickedly wobbly balance beam routine that earned only a 14.850.

But Douglas, needing to score a 15.200 on her final routine, the floor exercise, earned a 15.300 and was a compelling performer in purple, wiggling her hips and smiling the entire time.

On the second rotation Nastia Liukin, the defending Olympic all-around gold medalist and silver medalist on the uneven bars, lost her final hopes of making another Olympic team when she missed a release move and landed hard on the mat, her face bouncing up and down. To a standing ovation, Liukin got back on and finished her routine, even knowing her Olympic dream was over.

As she received a score off 13.950, the 22-year-old Liukin fought off her tears and acknowledged the reception she was receiving from the sold-out arena.

"My time is over," she said.

And the time is beginning for this new team that will be a favorite for Olympic gold in London. "It feels amazing to be an Olympian," said Wieber, who succinctly summed up what her four teammates seemed to feel.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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