Gabby Douglas (Courtesy US Presswire)
By Kelly Whiteside, USA TODAY
LONDON - Gabby Douglas finally lost her focus.
With a key wobble and a step on her landing, the gymnastics all-around gold medalist finished last among eight contestants in the individual uneven bars at the London Olympics on Monday.
Aliya Mustafina of Russia won with a 16.1. He Kexin of China was second, and home country favorite Elizabeth Tweddle won bronze.
Douglas was the last competitor to go, and a score higher than 15.916 would have knocked the Brit out of a medal. Instead, Douglas had her worst routine in four sessions here, scoring 14.9.
Douglas, visibly showing exhaustion from the strain of the all-around and team competition, where the USA won gold, seemed to take the disappointment in stride.
"It was an amazing talent of finalists," she said. "Coming into bar finals was a big challenge for me. I made a little mistake, but I'm human and when you get towards the end of the Olympics you get drained and tired.
"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 average start values. So I'm going into to beam (Tuesday) to finish really strong."
Sam Mikulak, the only other American competing in men's and women's individual events Monday, finished fifth in the vault. Hak Seon Yang of South Korea won gold.
Despite the level of competition here, the uneven bars are Douglas' signature event and the one that inspired her nickname, the "Flying Squirrel." National team coordinator Marta Karolyi came up with the nickname because she flies from bar to bar, soaring higher with every release move.
What has separated Douglas from the rest of the world? "The quality of her swings, not many kids swing as beautifully as she," says her coach Liang Chow. "The preciseness, the technique in her routines and the high flight element, the grace, the swinging, the power. It's all showing in her routine. It makes her a very special bar worker, one of the best."
Still, others have outperformed Douglas on the bars in London even before Monday. The Russian duo of Victoria Komova and Mustafina had better scores in the individual all-around final. Tweddle also had a better score in the team final.
With all the attention Douglas has received following her historic all-around win on Thursday, the question remained: Would the 16-year-old be focused entering Monday's uneven bars final? Karolyi said beforehand she no longer doubts Douglas' ability to concentrate on the goal at hand.
"Physically she was prepared, we all knew, but a lot of people questioned her ability to focus and this quality improved a lot for five months, from month to month. Right now she's able to focus 100% on her routine, on her job," Karolyi said after Douglas became the first African-American woman to win the all-around gold, two days after the U.S. won the team gold.
Tuesday's beam final is her last event of the Olympics. The session, which includes the floor exercise for women, is the last day of gymnastics here.