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America Watches As Gymnast Gabby Douglas Heads to London 2012 Olympics

NBC’s “Rock Center” features Gabby Douglas, who moved to West Des Moines to train with Liang Chow. He coached West Des Moines native Shawn Johnson to a gymnastics gold medal four years ago.

America can’t get enough of Olympic-bound gymnast Gabby Douglas, who has lived and trained in West Des Moines for the past two years for her Olympic debut in London later this month.

She and the rest of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastics Team anchor the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Olympic Games preview issue, an elite spot that hasn’t been occupied by a gymnast since 1996, when Kerri Strug was on the cover, the Des Moines Register reported.

Never in the magazine’s history has the entire Olympics gymnastics team been on the cover, according to the Register.

“There’s a certain magic to this year’s women’s team,” said Craig Neff, Sports Illustrated’s Olympics editor. “You have at least two great individuals (Douglas and Jordyn Wieber). In pondering whether we wanted to put just one athlete on, they’re both so good.

“It just felt more Olympic to have the spirit of this whole team that’s working together. We could get Gabby on, get Jordyn on, get their teammates on.”

Neff said Douglas’ “special quality” also figured into the decision to feature the gymnastics team, rather than a male athlete who might appeal more to the magazine’s predominantly male audience.

“Besides her athletic ability, she has charisma, poise and just this infectious joy about her that turns audiences on and potentially could make her as big of a star as anyone at these Games,” Neff said.

NBC's "Rock Center" Features Douglas

The spotlight shines again on Douglas tonight when she’ll be featured in a segment on  NBC’s “Rock Center” with Brian Williams. The program, which airs at 9 p.m. Iowa time, will trace the journey of the 16-year-old native of Virginia moved to Iowa two years ago to train with Liang Chow, who coached West Des Moines native Shawn Johnson to a gold medal in gymnastics four years ago.

Local NBC affiliate WHO-TV offers a preview of the program, tracing the journey of the 16-year-old who hopes to become the second African American woman to medal in the sport, which she reportedly nearly abandoned it before winning the Olympic trials on July 1.

The story will also focus on the sacrifices made by her mother and sister so she could continuing training. Since moving to West Des Moines, she has been living with the Travis and Missy Parton family, who told the Register they can’t imagine their lives without her.

“She’s our fifth daughter. It’s always been that way,” Travis Parton said. “I told Natalie from day one that I’d live and die for her and I’d sacrifice for her, give our time and our well-being to be sure she reaches her dream. And we’ve held true to that.”

The London Olympics open July 1.

Beth Dalbey (Editor) July 19, 2012 at 03:31 PM
It's nice to see gymnastics get some respect as a sport. And count Patch's among the cheers for Gabby Douglas in the London Olympics.

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