This was not the Gabby Douglas the world saw last. The U.S. gymnast who won the all-around gold medal Sunday had left the building. This Gabby Douglas was tired, about as tired as a 16-year-old bubble of effervescence can ever look.
After she finished last among the eight competitors in the uneven bars final Monday, there was no trademark giggle. Her classic run-on sentences now seemed the result of mental fatigue, not teenager-speak.
She was disappointed in herself for not fighting through her routine, tired from restless nights at the Olympic Village and seemingly in need of a hug. As she spoke to a group of news reporters for nearly nine minutes, her backpack rested heavily on her shoulders. She wiggled, adjusted it a bit. A USA Gymnastics official offered help, tried to fix a front strap. "I'm OK," she said.
It all looked very heavy -- weight of expectations included. To be fair, Douglas was not expected to medal in the uneven bars, based on the results of the last week in London. All three medalists -- Russia's Aliya Mustafina, China's He Kexin and Great Britain's Beth Tweddle -- had previously outperformed her.
Douglas knew coming into Greenwich Park Arena that if those three gymnasts had solid routines, the best she could finish was fourth.
"Even if I hit a good, solid routine, it still wasn't enough to medal because Tweddle, Mustafina and the Chinese girls put up these big scores and I had going in average, low start values," she said.
Afterward, she marveled at Tweddle's "insane connections" and Mustafina's "line and preciseness." Douglas' undoing was a stall on a handstand. "I made a little mistake. But I'm human, and when you get towards the end of the Olympics you get drained and tired," she said.
"No matter how much rest you get, you wake up and your body is so tired. You train everyday and still compete every other day. You go back in the gym, and it's very hard and your body's stiff."
Today, Douglas is expected to be a medal contender in her final event, the balance beam, based on the performances of the past week. She finished first on beam in the all-around final and third in event qualifying. "I'm going to go into beam finals tomorrow and try really hard to end on a good note," she said.
With all of the attention Douglas received after her historic all-around win, the question remained: Would she be focused entering Monday's bars final? Her coach, Liang Chow, said her training entering the event had been solid.
Douglas also said the outside demands on her time weren't an issue. "It hasn't been hard," she said. "We're in the village and kind of caged in, and we can't leave and the media can't come, so we're mostly on lockdown." Remember, Marta Karolyi, is still in charge.
After watching Douglas and fellow American Sam Mikulak, who finished fifth in the vault finals, a few teammates went out for dinner. (Unlike Douglas, Mikulak was thrilled with his results and even kissed the vault after he competed. "Vault was so good to me today, I tried to give it some love back," he said.)
Not long after the event was over, teammate McKayla Maroney tweeted: "We got sushi todayyyy! My first time eating out of the village in weeks!"
Here's guessing Douglas went back to her room for a good night's rest.
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OCTOBER 31, 2014
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