Aptly nicknamed "Flying Squirrel," 16-year-old gymnast Gabrielle Douglas defies gravity, a feat that might make Olympic history at this summer's games.
If the young athlete qualifies at the U.S. Olympic trials on June 28 through July 1, she will join the ranks of other African-American Olympic gymnasts, including Dominique Dawes and Betty Okino, who won, along with their U.S. teammates, the Olympic Team Bronze medal in 1992, and Tasha Schwikert, who joined Dawes on the U.S. team in 2000. Douglas aims to win an individual medal in the sport, which would make her the first black woman to do so since Dawes' bronze-medal win in 1996.
Already a gold-medal favorite, Douglas almost won her first all-around national title this month at the USA gymnastics national championships in St. Louis, but received a one-point deduction after an unexpected fall.
"I don't know where my head was," Douglas told the LA Times in a recent interview, "just getting ahead of myself, all the fans, all the noise. I had expectations, you know?"
Eager to reinstate her winning reputation, Douglas continues to train with her renowned coach Liang Chow, who says the gymnast has made "astounding" improvements.
Several young black athletes who have already qualified for this summer's games also intend to take the Olympics by storm. Stanford gymnast Josh Dixon, 23, tennis pro Sloane Stephens, 19, and champion fencers Daryl Homer, 21, and Nzingha Prescod, 19, will all be competing in sports where minority athletes are traditionally underrepresented.
This summers Olympics will be held in London. On Friday, July 27, Michelle Obama will lead the U.S. delegation in the opening ceremony, directed by acclaimed British filmmaker Danny Boyle.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Douglas is poised to become the second African-American, behind Olympic medalist Dominique Dawes, to ever make the U.S. women's gymnastics team. There have been several black members of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics squads before and after Dawes, including the gymnasts mentioned above.