SAN JOSE - It was the biggest night of Gabby Douglas' young gymnastics life. The finals of the Olympic trials, competing on her signature event, the uneven bars.
Douglas flew through the air, rising high to the rafters with ease. Then as she transitioned to the low bar, her hand slipped a bit. The gasp from the crowd was quieted in an instant. Douglas still had hold of the bar. Her hold on her Olympic spot was equally secure.
Douglas won the Olympic trials Sunday night headlining a team favored to win the Olympic gold.
Though Jordyn Wieber held a slight lead heading into the second day of competition, Douglas smiled, leaped and vaulted her way to the win, beating Wieber by a sliver - 0.10.
"This is the moment you want to seize," Douglas said. "It's awesome."
The rivalry between Douglas and Wieber, the reigning world and national champion, has been compelling to watch. The two 16-year-olds are expected to contend for the individual all-around gold medal next month in London. "We are going to push each other like no other," Douglas said.
For both, the all-around title at trials came down to their final event. Wieber went first on vault, scoring a solid 15.8. Douglas followed on floor, igniting the crowd with her usual exuberant performance. Her 15.3 secured the win and the automatic selection on the team.
The rest of the team was chosen by a committee and named shortly after the event. Besides Wieber, Aly Raisman, the 2011 world bronze medalist on floor, is also headed to London as expected. Raisman, 18, perhaps the USA's most consistent performer, finished third Sunday.
At 15, Kyla Ross, a two-time junior champ, also earned a spot for her solid all-around skills and poise. Ross was fourth at trials.
Among gymnastics insiders, there was much debate over the fifth spot. Would it be 16-year-old McKayla Maroney, the 2011 world vault champion, a favorite for the gold in that event? Or would national team coordinator Martha Karolyi favor Elizabeth "Ebee" Price, who's 16, and more of an all-around performer?
Or what about veteran Alicia Sacramone, who performed well on her two events, vault and beam?
Karolyi opted for Maroney. For her, the choice was clear. Karolyi said she knew this would be her team "for quite a while." But their performance under the pressure of the trials was important. "This was the ideal team but they needed to prove themselves, test out their nerves in a stressful situation," she said.
As much as Sunday was a celebration for a team of first-time Olympians, it was also a farewell to two 2008 Olympians, Nastia Liukin and Alicia Sacramone.
For Liukin, it was a difficult night. As the bar slipped out of Liukin's hands, she landed face first with a thump. Chalk flew from the blue mat. Momentarily devastated, Liukin looked at her father and coach, Valeri. She got up, chalked up, then did everything but give up. Back on the bars, Liukin finished her routine and nailed her dismount.
When she finished, the crowd erupted with a standing ovation. Liukin acknowledged the crowd with a wave. After nearly three years away from competing, Liukin's comeback fell short. For the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, Sunday night was surely the final competition of her storied career.
In her final event, the balance beam, she flicked her fingers with purpose and finished a beautiful routine. Again, the crowd erupted. Liukin's eyes watered. This was goodbye.