Andy Thornton, Special to NBC Olympics
LONDON – If thinking quickly on your feet isn’t tough enough, try thinking quickly on your hands. That’s exactly what American Gabby Douglas had to do in today’s uneven bars final when she suddenly had to improvise one of her skills.
In a spectacular, high-flying uneven bars battle that was mostly fought several feet above the bar, newly crowned Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas finished off the medal podium for the first time at these Olympic Games when she missed one of her handstands.
The 16-year-old was considered an outside shot for a medal on this event due to her slightly lower difficulty score than several of the top contenders, but as the last gymnast to go in the final, she did have the advantage of seeing all of her competitors perform before her. She would have needed more than a 15.916 to knock Great Britain’s Beth Tweddle off the medal podium for a bronze – a tall order for a routine that, when done perfectly, maxes out at a 16.6.
After soaring perhaps higher than any of her competitors on her release skills, Douglas came up short on one of her intricate pirouetting elements and had to think quickly. The poised Douglas held her composure well by turning herself around on the bar – not even breaking form during her unplanned cover-up – but the judges weren’t fooled. Despite hitting the rest of her routine cleanly, Douglas was awarded with just a 14.9 – a reflection of not only the execution deduction of falling the wrong way on her handstand but also the lost connection points she incurred in the process.
All-around bronze medalist Aliya Mustafina of Russia held on to win the Olympic gold here, thanks to nailing her unique “Mustafina” dismount after her signature stunning routine. Reigning Olympic champion He Kexin and former world bars champion Beth Tweddle both dazzled the crowd with their own breathtaking and innovative release sequences, but both erred on their dismounts and ended up with silver and bronze, respectively.
America’s new golden girl will have one final opportunity to add to the two gold medals she’s won here at these Olympic Games. In her farewell performance in London, Douglas will compete again in Tuesdays’s balance beam final, where her difficulty matches up with the very best in the world.
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