When Gabby Douglas finished first at the Olympic trials last month, critics argued that she was too inexperienced in international competition and couldn't possibly be ready for the big stage of London 2012.
Nobody's saying that now, after Douglas and the U.S. team won the all-around team competition by what could be considered a landslide on Tuesday, becoming the first American squad to do so since 1996. The Americans tallied a score of 183.596, finishing over five points ahead of Russia.
Each member of the team has her strong suits. Each of them serves a particular individual purpose. The U.S. wouldn't have gotten that gold on Tuesday without McKayla Maroney's vault performance, or without Jordyn Wieber's performance on the floor.
But without question, the U.S. wouldn't have been in a position to win the all-around gold without Douglas' uneven bars routine, which was made even gutsier by the fact that it was the Americans' weakest event and Russia's strongest.
According to the Des Moines Register, the U.S. held a 1.8-point lead over Russia as the uneven bars loomed. The Americans could've crumbled under the pressure, but instead, Kyla Ross scored a 14.933 and Douglas followed it up with a 15.233, which was good enough for the Americans to hold on to their advantage by a mere 0.4 points.
From there on out, the rest was a piece of cake. The Americans fought hard during their biggest battle of the day, and they held on to win the war—and the gold.
And more than anything, it was Douglas' leadership—and, of course, her work on the bars—that solidified a job well done. After the win, she told the Register:
I don’t think we wanted to settle for less. We wanted to go out there and be aggressive, and be strong and courageous, and not be afraid. So we went out there and did that. And it feels awesome to be champions.
The bars could've been the American's downfall; instead, Douglas made it a strength, and she'll do the same when she takes the floor on Thursday in the women's individual all-around competition.
At this year's trials, Douglas finished first on the uneven bars. She also finished first at this year's Visa Championships and at the 2012 Kellogg's Pacific Rim Championships.
At the 2011 World Championships, she finished fifth on the bars, but nobody's denying that she's made extraordinary improvements since then.
Douglas finished first all-around at the trials and second all-around at the Visa Championships. If she's going to finish first on Thursday, the bars will once again be the key.
If Tuesday's performance proved anything, it proved that she can do it.
People have been doubting Douglas since her Olympic journey began. When she won the trials, they said that Wieber was a stronger all-around candidate; Douglas responded by qualifying for the individual all-around final, while Wieber failed.
People said the women's team couldn't win the all-around gold medal because it wasn't strong enough on the bars; Douglas responded by giving the world a gold-garnering performance to remember.
Now, it's unlikely that people will spend Wednesday talking about how Douglas has no shot at winning the all-around gold on Day 6. If they do, we can all guess how that storyline will end.