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I'm an underdog starting to get to the top

Gabrielle Douglas says she performed "the best floor routine of my life" en route to a silver-medal finish in the all-around at the 2012 U.S. gymnastics nationals. Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

When I opened my eyes Sunday morning, I knew right away it was going to be a great day. It was the final day of the U.S. gymnastics nationals, one of the most important meets leading up to the Olympics, but I was so calm. I've never felt that way before such a big competition.

I did very well the first day and was going into finals tied with Jordyn Wieber -- the 2011 world all-around champ. I was definitely excited to be in the top spot, but I also wanted to make sure I didn't get cocky and think, “Oh, yeah, I've got this in the bag,” or make myself nervous by focusing on winning too much. I tried to stay cool and confident, and I was able to hold that feeling all day and into warm-ups at the meet.

But then, on the first event, I messed up my layout step-out in the first few seconds of my beam routine. I was so mad at myself, thinking, “How could I fall on this easy skill?” I was especially frustrated because I made the same mistake just a few weeks earlier at the U.S. Classic. When I was done, both of my coaches, Liang Chow and Liwen Zhuang, gave me a hug and said, "Take it out of your mind. Don't even think about what went wrong, just move on. Pretend like it never happened."

And so I did. I was determined to perform the last three events as perfect as I could and to show I was a fighter. I listened to some Lil Wayne songs to pump me up and visualized the floor set I wanted to do. Then I went out and hit the best floor routine of my life. I had fun the whole time and I stuck every pass! I was so proud, and it proved to me just how powerful my mind can be. The momentum from floor just carried over to vault and bars, and in the end I was just two-tenths away from the national title, even with the fall on beam. It was an amazing day for me, and I am so pleased with how far I've come.

Last year at this same meet, I had a horrible competition and ended seventh all-around. Two years ago was the first time I made the national team. I feel like I'm the underdog who is starting to come out on top. I am so thankful to Chow, because he has shaped me into this awesome gymnast I never knew I could be. I dreamed about it, for sure, but with Chow's help, my dreams are becoming real.

You have to dream big, and I do visualize myself standing on the top of that podium in London. It's why I decided to move to Iowa almost two years ago. I had to move away from my home in Virginia Beach, Va., and live with a host family to do it, but I knew if I wanted to be the best, Chow was the coach to get me there. He coached Shawn Johnson to four Olympic medals in 2008. He knows what he is doing.

I haven't been home since I moved, and being so far from my mom and my brother and sisters (I am the youngest of four kids) was definitely a big challenge for me at first. I Skype and text and email with my family all the time, and my host family, the Partons, treat me as their own. They have four young daughters, so I had to get used to being the oldest one in this house. I try to be a role model for them as best as I can and give Leah, who's 7 and a gymnast at Chow's, gymnastics tips.

Next are the Olympic trials at the end of June in San Jose, Calif. The top all-arounder there gets an automatic spot on the Olympic team, so I'm aiming for that. As soon as I got home, I watched the TV broadcast from nationals, analyzing and criticizing my routines on each event. If I can see my errors, I can correct them. That's exactly what I intend to do. I had one of my best meets at nationals, but I can still do better at trials. I also want to prove to everyone that I can nail that beam routine!