Gymnastics Olympic Trials 2012: Gabby Douglas Win Doesn't Topple Jordyn Wieber

Damin EsperFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2012

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 01:  Gabrielle Douglas competes on the uneven bars during day 4 of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials at HP Pavilion on July 1, 2012 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

They both stood there waiting as NBC milked the moment. Gabrielle Douglas on one corner of the floor exercise, Jordyn Wieber at the head of the vault runway. One of these two young women would win the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials on Sunday night.

Finally, the judges told Wieber to go. She hammered the vault home, scoring 15.800. Now, it was Douglas' turn.

“It goes through my mind,” Douglas said. “What do I have to do? I have to stick every pass, this has to be the best floor of my life. She vaulted, and I was, 'OK, you've got this, you've got this.'”

Indeed. Douglas completed a solid floor exercise. It probably wasn't the best of her life—she did score a 15.450 in Friday's preliminary round. But her score of 15.300 was good enough to beat Wieber, 123.450-123.350.

But it was only good enough to beat Wieber on Sunday. Make no mistake—Wieber is still the most likely American to win the gold medal for the all-around in London.

HUNTSVILLE, TX - JANUARY 26:  Bela Karolyi, Owner, Director of Facilities, Karolyi Ranch addresses the crowd on hand as his facility has been designated by the USOC as an USA Gymnastics National Training Center and Hilton's partnership  with USA Gymnastic
Bob Levey/Getty Images

No less an authority than Bela Karolyi said so. He was asked if Douglas could be as good as she was on Sunday at the Olympics.

“I don't see anybody from our team beating Jordyn,” Karolyi said. “Jordyn is sturdy. She's like a machine.”

Officially, Karolyi isn't involved in the U.S. team anymore, although his wife and partner in coaching Marta still is. His hair looks exactly as it always has, just gray, not brown. He famously coached Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton to Olympic gold medals.

And he is not buying stock in Gabrielle Douglas, or any other American, finishing ahead of Wieber in London.

“I don't see it,” he said.

Don't believe Karolyi? You should have seen the difference between Wieber and Douglas in the media room. Douglas was all smiles, enjoying her first win over Wieber in a major competition. Douglas said her tears of joy mixed with her mascara and that her eyes were burning.

Wieber's eyes also were, but for a different reason. She was stone-faced, or at least as stone-faced as a gymnast can be, patiently answering questions with a smile, yet with a look in her eyes that practically screamed, “This shall not stand!”

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 01:  Jordyn Wieber competes on the beam during day 4 of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials at HP Pavilion on July 1, 2012 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Her words betrayed none of that.

“I think having that little bit of friendly rivalry in the competition is really important,” Wieber said “It just keeps us pushing a little bit more.”

Douglas, 16, is from Virginia Beach, Va., but moved to West Des Moines, Iowa, two years ago to work with coach Liang Chow, who coached Shawn Johnson in 2008.

Douglas has been breathing down Wieber's neck for a while now, having come within a fall on the balance beam of beating Wieber at the U.S. Championships in St. Louis.

She said after that meet, people told her, “It's a good thing you didn't win because you would just be relaxed. Now you're hungry, you have that fire in your eyes. That really came out tonight. All of that hard work has finally paid off.”

SAN JOSE, CA - JULY 01:  Gabrielle Douglas competes on the beam during day 4 of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials at HP Pavilion on July 1, 2012 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

However, implicit in that statement is the idea that Douglas could slack off after having finally beaten Wieber. She said she wouldn't. But first place at the Olympic Trials is something that nobody will remember. This was a warm-up meet, a practice. It's the Olympic gold medal that matters. It's the only thing that matters.

Just ask Johnson. She beat Nastia Liukin at the 2008 Olympic Trials, hammered her in fact, by 1.800 points. Liukin ended up winning the gold medal in Beijing.

The question is whether Douglas has it in her to win the Olympic gold medal. We know Wieber does—she's the defending world champion.

Damin Esper is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.

Related

    Tokyo Olympics Won't Be Cancelled or Postponed Due to Coronavirus

    Summer Olympics logo
    Summer Olympics

    Tokyo Olympics Won't Be Cancelled or Postponed Due to Coronavirus

    Christopher Simpson
    via Bleacher Report

    Egypt Confirm Olympics Plan for Salah

    Liverpool star would miss pre-season

    Summer Olympics logo
    Summer Olympics

    Egypt Confirm Olympics Plan for Salah

    Rory Marsden
    via Bleacher Report

    USWNT Qualify for Tokyo Olympics

    Mewis scores twice in win over Mexico

    Summer Olympics logo
    Summer Olympics

    USWNT Qualify for Tokyo Olympics

    Paul Kasabian
    via Bleacher Report

    USA Gymnastics Proposes $215M Settlement to Larry Nassar Victims

    Summer Olympics logo
    Summer Olympics

    USA Gymnastics Proposes $215M Settlement to Larry Nassar Victims

    Timothy Rapp
    via Bleacher Report