Dynamic duo: Gabrielle Douglas, right, and her childhood hero, Dominique Dawes. The only two black female gymnasts to win gold in the Olympics.

Before the London Olympics, the name Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas was as obscure as, well,  the names of any black gymnasts competing in the Olympics. There have been so few.  But the Virginia Beach, Va. prodigy now stands front and center of the athletic universe at age 14 after capturing gold in the all-around gymnastics competition, becoming the first African American to do so and the second black female to win gold in any gymnastics since Dominique Dawes in the 1996 Games.

Even more impressive is the fact that Douglas became one of the first American female to win both the team gold and the all-around gold in the same Olympic Games, feats that living legends Mary Lou Retton and Shannon Miller were able to accomplish.

This is a far cry from just two years ago when she was a raw talent who convinced her mother to let her move from home to suburban Des Moines to  live with another family in order to train. And it’s a longer way from just a year ago when, talented undeniable, her greatness was upended by her nerves in the world championship games and she fell off the balance beam three times.

“Physically yes, she was prepared; we all knew that,” Martha Karolyi, the U.S. national team coordinator, told Time magazine. “But lots of people had a question mark about her ability to focus, and really this quality has improved in the last five months. She had such a great improvement, it’s incredible in such a short time. I haven’t seen any gymnast go from an average good gymnast five months ago to climb up to be the best in the world. That’s the truth.”

The truth is, there are a few other precious moments in American sports history that turned the athletic world on its axis. Here are the best breakout moments in sports.

— terry shropshire

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