Monday, August 6, 2012

Golden Gabby

Best thing about the women's all-around competition? I didn't break my chair.

Ha. I'm kidding. That's dumb. The best thing was, duh, GABBY!!!! OH. MY. GOD.

Gabby has absolutely skyrocketed this year. Last year, she was an unpredictable mess. When she made the world team, I was very very nervous - and very very surprised. She didn't have a strong mental game. At. All. But something started to change between nationals and worlds. You could see her confidence starting to grow. It wasn’t clear where it was going to lead but you could see her starting to mature into not only an athlete, but a competitor. 

Things started to get interesting at the American Cup in March. That was where the new Gabby really showed herself. You qualify for that event based on your world ranking and she hadn’t qualified. However, because America was the host country, they were able to enter someone in as a exhibition performance. And wouldn’t you know it, Gabby Douglas goes in there and wins the whole dang thing, beating world champ Jordyn Wieber. Her scores didn’t count but everyone’s eyebrows were raised to the possibility that it could be Gabby, not Jordyn, who would win the crown in London.

There’s something to be said for confidence – believing that you can is half, no, 90 percent, of the battle. From the beginning of the year, Gabby believed she could and you could see it even in the way she held her head. 

I got a chance to interview Nastia Liukin after the competition and we talked about Gabby and what her life looks like from here. She mentioned that the next time Gabby takes the floor for competition, it will feel very different competing as the Olympic champion. I loved how Nastia’s eyebrows raised a bit when she said that. It was very revealing.

It must feel very odd to spend your whole chasing something, get it and then try and figure out how to wear it. You spend all your time wanting it, but not a lot of time planning how you’ll use it. 

And not only will things be different gymnastically - but how does her personal life change? Winning  gold is one thing. Making that gold rain cash is another. She has the potential to be as big as Mary Lou but there’s a certain magic combination that has to happen and although she’s adorable and cute as heck and perky as can be, the question is will she be endearing? 

Carly Patterson looked every bit the part but in the end, didn’t capture the public’s imagination and faded away. Nastia and Shawn were far more marketable - Shawn more so than Nastia in the years immediately following Beijing. But Nastia is proving to be the one who has longevity as a public persona. (Also, I’m calling it now, Shawn is going to be the hottest mess ever by the time she hits 30.)

So the next month will make or break Gabby’s potential as a “celebrity”. I think she has it in her but she’s going to have to ditch some of the godspeak (too polarizing) and hire a speech a coach (complete sentences, please!)

Oh yea, and for the competition itself – my random thoughts.
  • The Russians were totally overscored. But so was Aly. 
  • Gabby was divine. 
  • I was on the edge of my seat and about died waiting for Komova’s score to come up. Mustafina’s bar routine is one of my favorite things ever. 
  • I almost don’t hate Gabby’s floor music anymore. 
  • I definitely still hate Komova’s floor music. But her mom is a legend and Komova is a doll. 
  • I love, love, love the fact that she and Musty actually show emotions. So refreshing. Especially considering the American team gives the worst, most canned, boring interviews ever.  
Today is bar finals and I’ll be rooting hard for GB's Beth Tweddle. She’s an old lady in the sport the one who has led Britain’s resurgence in the sport. Nothing but respect for that woman. Her bars routine looks like a monkey got a hold of a mocha frapacinno and found a jungle gym to show off on.  I LOVE it.

One more thing -
If you want to know what it looks like in the NBC compound when an important gold medal is on the line, watch that 7 minutes of terror video of the crew for Curiosity as they're trying to land it on Mars. That’s about right.

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