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In Gabby Douglas' big year, a new honor
In Gabby Douglas' big year, a new honor

By Tom Robinson
The Virginian-Pilot
© October 18, 2012

Virginia Beach gymnast Gabby Douglas' rise to international fame reached new heights Wednesday when the 16-year-old was named the Women's Sports Foundation's Individual Sportswoman of the Year at a gala in New York.

Douglas, who won gold medals at last summer's London Olympics in the women's team and individual all-around competitions, was selected from a field of seven finalists, including skier Lindsey Vonn, tennis champion Serena Williams, Olympic track star Allyson Felix, Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin, Paralympic swimmer Jessica Long and Paralympic athlete Tatyana McFadden.

Recent past winners of the foundation's individual award include golfers Yani Tseng (2011) and Lorena Ochoa (2007), gymnasts Courtney Kupets (2009) and Nastia Liukin (2008) and figure skater Yuna Kim (2010).

Douglas left her family in Virginia Beach in 2010 to train with acclaimed coach Liang Chow in West Des Moines, Iowa. That move sparked her climb in elite international gymnastics that only gained mainstream notice last March at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Competing as a non-scoring alternate at the American Cup, Douglas nonetheless posted an all-around total that would have defeated reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber for the championship.

The performance launched a whirlwind five months for Douglas that included winning the Olympic Trials and culminated with her historic showing in London in August.

That was followed up by a host of high-profile appearances, from being interviewed on "Oprah's Next Chapter" to delivering the Pledge of Allegiance at the Democratic National Convention. She's currently part of a 40-city exhibition tour of gymnastics champions and has announced plans for a book.

Douglas became the first American gymnast to win team and individual gold medals at the same Olympics. She also is the first black athlete to win the Olympic all-around title. She has said she plans to continue to train in Iowa and to compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Tom Robinson, 757-446-2518, tom.robinson@pilotonline.com

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