Thursday, Sep 21st

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Gabby Douglas: Young Gymnast Poised to Shine

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Her dream is so much bigger than her hometown in Virginia or her training center in Iowa. Millions of people will share the vision of Gabrielle Douglas when she competes in gymnastics with the U.S. Olympic team in London.

The 16-year-old, known as Gabby, is nicknamed "The Flying Squirrel" for the way she flies around the uneven bars. She is soaring towards the goal she set when she began formal gymnastics training at age six. The joy and excitement of being a 2012 Olympian shines from within Douglas and lights up any stage she occupies. After arriving for the Olympic Games, the young gymnast posted this message on her Facebook page:

Made it to LONDON! Everything is so beautiful here! I a so super excited!!! Will post pics hopefully tomorrow! Gotta go to bed, but I wanted to thank everyone for all of your beautiful words, wishes and  prayers. OMG I was so overwhelmed! Love you guys! ♥ Gabby

Douglas guaranteed her place on the U.S. team by winning the Olympic Trials in San Jose earlier this month. Her powerful and graceful acrobatics put her a tenth of a point ahead of teammate Jordyn Wieber, the world all-around champion and U.S. national champion in gymnastics.

The incredible athletic ability it has taken Douglas years to achieve is featured on a July cover of Time Magazine. Now, fans of the 4'11" Olympian are waiting to see if she and her teammates will claim gold in London. If determination and confidence are deciding factors, Douglas seems to have both.

"My message is never quit, never give up and when you have little troubles here and there, just keep fighting and it will pay off," Douglas says in a July 27 news article on msnbc.com.

Surprisingly, the Virginia Beach native almost did give up her pursuit of Olympic fame shortly before the U.S. trials. In an interview for NBC's Rock Center, she tells Chris Jansing how her mother, Natalie Hawkins, and  her sister, Arielle, helped restore her focus. they convinced Douglas to put aside her homesickness and continue the rigorous pracctice that made her a 2011 World Championships Team gold medalist.

The teenager had already shown her commitment to her sport by leaving home two years earlier to train with Coach Liang Chow in West Des Moines, IA. Douglas missed her parents and three siblings in spite of a close relationship  with the Partons, the host family in Iowa who offered her a place to live. When Douglas decided to keep fighting for a place on the U.S. team, her father got a chance to watch from the stands as she competed at the Olympic Trials.

"Sometimes, when she had a rough time, I'd tell her to hang in there. 'You know what it takes to be a winner, you know what your goals are. You just keep on your goals.' Some things that I tell her I have to remind myself. Those are all things we can all abide by," says Timothy Douglas in an interview with USA Today.

The Air Force Staff Sergeant, who has served in Afghanistan, hopes to make it to London for the Games. Missy Partons and other members of the Olympian's Iowa family will be watching along with Gabrielle's mother.

"Letting go of Gabrielle was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. But it's now one of the most rewarding things that I ever got to experience in my life because there's no greater joy for a parent than to see their child reach their dream," Hawkins says in an interview on Shine from Yahoo.

The photos and messages on the Olympian's Facebook page keep her fans connected to her preparations in London. Analysts have declared the U.S. women's gymnastics team, the Fab Five, as one of the most talented in 16 years. If her persistence and personality come through when Douglas competes, she could come away with more than a gold medal. She will make a lifelong dream a reality and become one of America's newest superstars.

Photo Source: Zimbio