Douglas sacrificed much in quest for gold
Gymnastics all-around gold medalist Gabby Douglas receives congratulations from coach Liang Chow, who said, "She was sacrificing being with her mom in order to be the best gymnast she can be. That touched my heart."
There's a sleep-away summer camp in my hometown that I attended for five years when I was a kid, starting at age 9. My dad has often asked me why I don't send my own kids there.
He chuckles when I tell him that I'd miss them too much.
The camp is six weeks.
I guess I wouldn't be a very good gymnastics mom. One of the more intriguing storylines behind the Olympic journey of gold-medal all-around winner Gabby Douglas is how she left her Virginia home two years ago at age 14 and moved halfway across the country by herself to seek out better coaching.
Douglas' mom wasn't keen on the idea at first, and Douglas feared being homesick.
But she wanted to be trained by the renowned Liang Chow, who helped turn Shawn Johnson into an Olympic gold medalist. Chow is based in West Des Moines, Iowa.
Douglas lived with a host family in the area and never went home once as she transformed herself from a very good local gymnast into one of the nation's elite in just two years.
"She was sacrificing being with her mom in order to be the best gymnast she can be," Chow told Time magazine. "That touched my heart,"
Chow quickly fell in love with the dynamic, wide-smiling Douglas, who has gone on to capture hearts around America as well as a big piece of history.
Douglas is the first African-American in Olympic history to win the all-around title.
"I'm the underdog and I'm black and no one thinks I'd ever win," she said in the Time interview. "Well, I'm going to inspire so many people."
The Olympics are supposed to be about the best athletes in the world competing against each other.
There should be no intentional leveling of the playing field. And yet, that's exactly what is allowed to happen in the individual all-around gymnastics competition when only two gymnasts from a team can qualify for the final round.
American Jordyn Wieber, the defending world champion, missed the cut for the finals even though she had the fourth-best preliminary score in the entire field and was just 0.6 points out of first place. But because two of her teammates, Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman finished ahead of her, Wieber was forced to sit in the stands and watch the all-around finals.
The International Federation of Gymnastics may want to prevent certain countries from dominating the competition, but it's also preventing the very best from competing. And to me, that flies in the face of the spirit of the Olympics.
We've heard all week about the history that American swimmer Michael Phelps has made in becoming the all-time leader in Olympic medals won.
But how about skeet shooter Kimberly Rhode and her place in history? It's also amazing.
Rhode might not be a household name like Phelps, but on Sunday, she became the first American to win an individual medal in five straight Olympics.
She won gold this time by tying a world record. That comes on the heels of a silver medal in Beijing in 2008. In her Olympic debut in Atlanta in 1996, Rhode won gold in double trap. She took bronze in that event in Sydney in 2000 and won gold again in Athens in 2004.
"It's just been an incredible journey," the 33-year-old Rhode said. "'And ultimately, I couldn't be happier for bringing home the gold for the United States."
Four Americans have won individual medals in four straight Olympics. They are: Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Al Oerter and Bruce Baumgartner.
Still the one:
Speaking of Phelps, he made Olympic history earlier this week when he helped the 200 freestyle relay team win gold. It was the 19th time he won an Olympic medal, which made him the most decorated athlete in Olympic history.
Phelps leapfrogged Russian gymnast Larissa Latynina, who won 18 medals over three Olympics from 1956 to 1964.
But Latynina thinks she still has a leg up on Phelps.
She was the Olympic coach for the Soviet Union in the 1970s and her teams rolled up another 10 gold medals during that time.
"Do I think I am still the greatest Olympian?" she said in a recent interview. "Why yes, but that is my opinion."
In a sign of the times, Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen was immediately put under the microscope this week when she obliterated the world record in the 400 individual medley.
The 16-year-old phenom won gold with a 4:28.43. But even more impressive, she swam the final 50 meters faster than American star Ryan Lochte did in winning the men's race.
Whispers of doping swirled, and became louder as Ye then went on to set an Olympic record of 2:08.39 in the 200 individual medley.
"The Chinese have had a history in the past of doping, so I don't think people are crazy to point fingers," said American Caitlin Leverenz, who finished third in Ye's 200 heat on Monday. "But I don't think that's my job to do right now. I'm just trying to do my best."
This is news that the Chicago Sky doesn't need.
Center Sylvia Fowles missed her third straight game in London on Friday because of a sore left foot. She tweaked it in a practice there.
It isn't clear exactly how serious the injury is, because it's not like the U.S. can't afford to be extra cautious and let Fowles rest. The team is beating its opponents by an average of 33.8 points per game.
But serious or not, the news is disconcerting in Chicago. The Sky has already played nine of its first 17 games without star guard Epiphanny Prince, who went down with a broken foot in the eighth game. Losing Fowles for any amount of time during the second half of the season would be another major blow.
Speaking of Epiphanny Prince, I ran into her last weekend at a Sky youth camp that my daughter attended.
Prince was walking normally, and without a boot. In fact, she said she had been working out and even participating in some drills in practice. She was looking forward to doing even more in practice this week, including some running on the court.
After undergoing surgery in mid-June to repair her broken foot, Prince was tapped for a return in 6-8 weeks, which would make her ready about a week before the Sky's first game after the Olympic break on Aug. 17.
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