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Douglas returns to the gym, more things to watch at the event finals


LONDON -- Gabby Douglas doesn't mean to get ahead of herself since she has two more events left at the Olympics, but she wants an Acura NSX.

"One like Iron Man's, like off The Avengers," she said.

It's hard for the newly crowned Olympic all-around champion to avoid the attention and spoils that come with that title, even with uneven bars and balance beam finals Monday and Tuesday.

(She also must complete driver's education in her native Virginia rather than her gymnastics home of Iowa prior to getting the car. Minor details.)

"It definitely has sunk in," Douglas said, three days after becoming the first African-American Olympic all-around champion. "It sank in when Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and everyone was tweeting at me. It was like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm a superstar.'"

Douglas' spot at the top could be short-lived. No U.S. gymnast has appeared in back-to-back Olympics since Dominique Dawes and Amy Chow in 1996 and 2000. Even more startling, a different American woman has been the nation's highest all-around finisher at the year's biggest meet each of the last nine years.

"This is a little girl's sport," U.S. Olympic coach John Geddert said. "It's not a woman's sport. And the little girls are gonna prevail. Their bodies can hold up better. They can get off the ground better. They don't have to deal with curves where curves didn't used to be."

But Douglas, who turns 17 on Dec. 31, could be different.

"Gabby has a [small] physique that, I think, might be able to handle another one," Geddert said. "First of all, she's one of the youngest ones [on the U.S. team]. She looks like a 12-year-old."

After the Olympics, Douglas expects to go on a nationwide tour with other U.S. gymnasts, past and present. She'll have to juggle sponsorships and appearances, too -- she has an agent -- but said her goal is to stay healthy and fit for another run.

"If all goes well, I think you'll definitely be seeing more of me," Douglas said.

Here's a look at Monday's three event finals, where the top eight from qualifying (max. two per country) will vie for medals ...

This is Chen Yibing's domain. China's Lord of the Rings has won five of the last six major international championships, including the 2008 Olympic gold. Nobody has won back-to-back Olympic rings titles since Japan's Akinori Nakayama in 1968 and '72. Chen, 27, qualified first into this final with a 15.858, but he's not a runaway favorite. Italian Matteo Morandi, who won bronze and silver behind Chen at the last two world championships, was within striking distance at 15.766. The third qualifier, Russian Aleksandr Balandin, actually outscored Chen in Monday's team final. The eighth and final qualifier for the rings final is quite notable. Jordan Jovtchev, 39, is competing in his men's gymnastics record sixth Olympics. The salt-and-pepper-haired Bulgarian flag bearer won his first world rings medal in 1995, two months before Gabby Douglas was born. One of the most accomplished gymnasts of all time, he's never won an Olympic gold. There are no Americans in the rings final for a fourth straight Games.

Medal picks:

Gold: Chen Yibing (CHN)

Silver: Aleksandr Balandin (RUS)

Bronze: Matteo Morandi (ITA)

The marquee women's event final features the gold, silver and bronze medalists from Thursday's all-around (Douglas and Russia's Viktoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina) as well as the defending Olympic champion, He Kexin. You may remember He from 2008, one of the extremely young-looking Chinese gymnasts that beat Nastia Liukin on a tiebreaker for the bars gold. None of the aforementioned qualified on top, though. That distinction went to Beth Tweddle, Great Britain's best hope at these Games for its first women's gymnastics medal since the 1928 team competition. Tweddle, a three-time Olympian, had the most difficult bars routine at the 2008 Olympics but finished fourth. She posted a 16.133 at this year's in qualifying. He qualified second to Tweddle with a 15.966, followed by the reigning world champion Komova (15.833), China's Yao Jinnan (15.766) and Mustafina (15.7), who registered the second-highest bars score of the Olympics, 16.1, in the all-around final. Douglas, the sixth qualifier (15.333), took fifth in her debut at the 2011 world championship.

Medal picks:

Gold: He Kexin (CHN)

Silver: Beth Tweddle (GBR)

Bronze: Viktoria Komova (RUS).

Monday's finale doesn't quite have the star power of uneven bars, but it could provide the single biggest highlight of the day. South Korea's Yang Hak-seon performed the hardest vault ever attempted to win last year's world championship. It's a handspring front triple twist, which carries a 7.4 start value, two tenths higher than that of anyone else. How good is Yang? He qualified second into this final without using that vault Saturday. Russian Denis Ablyazin qualified first into this final, where eight men perform two different vaults and their scores are averaged. This event lost some luster in December when France's Thomas Bouhail, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist and 2010 world champion, shattered his leg in training. Yang and Ablyazin are the only men returning from the 2011 worlds final, and only one gymnast from the 2008 Olympic final is competing (Romania's Flavius Koczi, who qualified sixth). American Olympic rookie Sam Mikulak, who qualified fourth, is among the contenders for bronze behind Yang and Ablyazin. South Korea has never won an Olympic gymnastics gold.

Medal picks:

Gold: Yang Hak-seon (KOR)

Silver: Denis Ablyazin (RUS)

Bronze: Flavius Koczi (ROU)