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But Douglas‘ two older sisters lobbied on her behalf, giving their mother a list of reasons why Gabby should be allowed to move. The only reason to stay: They would miss her.

The move was hard on Douglas, too. Though the Partons treat her like their fifth daughter and are now so close to Hawkins they may as well be related, Douglas missed her family and her dogs. As recently as January, she second-guessed her decision. But she also knew Chow and his wife, Li Zhuang, could get her where she wanted to go.

“We had to work with her consistency,” said Martha Karolyi, coordinator of the U.S. women’s team. “She had the skills. She had the lightness. She was flying all the time, but sometimes she would get out of control. But we worked on that, and it really helped that Chow has this very nice temper, that very calmly he was able to make the corrections and strongly spell out the expectations to her.”

Like 10 days ago.

Douglas has made a stunning rise this year, going from someone who couldn’t stay on a piece of equipment at last year’s U.S. championships to beating world champ Jordyn Wieber at last month’s Olympic trials. She was now one of the favorites, and being in the spotlight became a little too much to take.

“I think she was a little bit scared of what’s ahead of her. That’s big pressure,” Chow said.

Known for his easy smile and warm personality, Chow pulled Douglas aside for a pep talk. Whatever he said worked, because she’s been unflappable since she first took the floor in London.

“It takes lots of suffering and hardship until you climb to the top,” Karolyi said. “It depends on your character how you take those times.”

As she did in Tuesday night’s team final, Douglas set the tone with the very first event, vault.

Once again doing the difficult Amanar — a roundoff onto the takeoff board, back handspring onto the table and 2.5 twisting somersaults before landing — Douglas took a small hop to the left and then another, putting her dangerously close to the out-of-bounds line. She never looked down, but it was clear she knew how close she was, twisting her upper body to the left to absorb the momentum and keep her legs from moving.

She stayed in place — and in bounds — and her 15.966 gave her a lead she never relinquished.

Komova cut Douglas‘ lead in half on uneven bars, where she looks more like a delicate hummingbird as she flies between the bars. Her routine is incredibly difficult, yet she delivers it with such lightness and style. She took a small hop on her dismount, but instantly camouflaged it by thrusting her hands into the air and turning to salute the judges.

When her score of 15.966 was announced, she nodded slightly as she zipped her warm-up jacket all the way to her chin.

Next came balance beam, where Komova and Douglas have struggled. Komova’s fall during team competition at last year’s worlds hurt Russia’s chance of catching the Americans; Douglas might have won the U.S. title if not for a fall on the second day of competition.

With the stakes now higher than ever, both were clutch. Most of Komova’s tricks were landed with confidence, and her sheep jump — where she thrusts her head and arms back while kicking her feet behind her — was exquisite, the soles of her feet brushing her ponytail.

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