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Gymnast Gabrielle Douglas celebrates after winning the artistic gymnastics women's individual all-around final.
Gabrielle Douglas, "The Flying Squirrel," took gold in the women's individual all-around finals, holding off two tough Russian gymnasts and her own teammate, and becoming the first African-American woman to win one of gymanstics' greatest honors.
She is the third American woman in a row to win the competition.
Douglas never relinquished the lead she established in the first round, when she vaulted her way to a 15.966. Russians Viktoria Komova and Aliya Mustfina both outscored Douglas in the second round on the uneven bars, but it wasn't enough to close the gap.
After Douglas scored an unusually good 15.5 on the beam, giving her a lead of .326 over Komova, the gold was her for the taking. She did not disappoint.
With the world watching, Douglas took to the mat for the floor exercise. A series of twists and turns were punctuated a beaming smile and great landing that earned her a 15.033, for a total of 62.232.
Komova was the last athlete to take the floor, need a 15.357 or better to beat Douglas. Here precision execution was impressive, but not enough as she scored a 15.1 for a total of 61.973, leaving her just short.
Fellow Russian Aliya Mustifina finished third, tied with American Aly Raisman at 59.66, but Mustfina was awarded bronze due to a new tie-breaker rule based on the highest score for execution.
Douglas came into the individual all-around still riding high on Team USA's gold medal win earlier this week.
"It is very special. It gives us the momentum," the 4-foot-11 Douglas told the Associated Press. "It keeps going, it keeps flowing. It gives us, definitely, a little bit of an edge thinking that we are truly the best in the world. It gives us that little bit of a push."
Defending world champion Jordyn Wieber was relegated to the sidelines to serve as cheerleader, despite having been considered a lock to reach the finals of the women's individual competition.
Though she finished with the fourth-best overall score in the qualifying round she failed to move on because of the rule that states that each nation can only send competitors to the finals. It was a step out of bounds during her floor exercise that proved too costly for Wieber.
Providing Douglas and Raisman a shot of adrenaline was President Obama, who offered words of congratulations by phone.
"I told these young ladies as I was congratulating them, how do you not bust your head every time you're on that little balance beam?" Obama said. "I couldn't walk across that balance beam."
Regardless of how well things go today for Douglas and Raisman, they've each got plenty of more work ahead of them in individual event competition later in the Games: Douglas on balance beam and uneven bars, Raisman on beam and floor exercise.
Between their team victory and posting three of the top four scores in the individual qualifying round, this 2012 squad, which has dubbed itself "The Fierce Five," is drawing favorable comparisons to the 1996 team, led by Keri Strugg, known as "The Magnificent Seven."
Britain's Rebecca Tunney knows the Americans got a big boost from Tuesday's victory.
"If they've won that, they know that their team's good enough. Hopefully they can have their individuals who are able to medal as well," Tunney told the AP. "I think they definitely have them. They're amazing."