Nightly News | August 02, 2012
>>> and now about those american women. tonight is gymnastics. and millions of folks back home will be watching the so-called flying squirrel , gabby douglas . because of her talent, her smile, her sparkle, and her story, which we get tonight from nbc's chris jansing .
>> reporter: don't let gabby douglas ' size, 4'11", 90 pounds, her megawatt smile, or her infectious laugh fool you. she is one fierce gymnast.
>> she is so great. she flies.
>> nick named the flying squirrel .
>> i love to make it really high so i can just hear the crowd on the side go, oh!
>> reporter: she was spunky even as a toddler.
>> flipping off furniture and scaling the doors. she'd grab ahold of the door handle and then just scale to the top of the door.
>> she started training at 6 with the intensity of an olympian even then.
>> first place, gabriel douglas .
>> reporter: when she was just 9 years old gabby 's dad went to war to iraq then afghanistan.
>> i just had to pray to god just to keep him safe and the angels to keep my dad safe and come back home.
>> reporter: he came back safely but her parents separated. she was devastated and distracted. and she believed she could find her focus again with acclaimed coach liang chao. the trouble was his gym was 1200 miles away in iowa.
>> it was horrible. very, very hard. i cried.
>> reporter: gabby remembers looking down from the plane, a scared 14-year-old.
>> all of these fields of corn and oh, my goodness. what am i getting myself into?
>> reporter: at first the move was promising. chao was taking gabby 's skills to a new level. a local family the partons volunteered to be her home away from home.
>> we promised her mom we'd make her feel as much a part of our family as if she were our own flesh and blood .
>> reporter: and gabby loved playing big sister to their four young girls. the community has embraced her as well. local tv and newspapers have done stories on gabby and the triple-a ball club for the chicago cubs invited her to throw out the first pitch.
>> ladies and gentlemen , on your feet for gabby douglas !
>> reporter: gabby was thriving. but pangs of home sickness were setting in. you'd been here about a year and a half right?
>> how many times have you been home?
>> reporter: at last year's visa championship, she fell off the balance beam three times. feeling the pressure to succeed, in january she wanted to quit.
>> i'm like oh, i miss my mom and my family. i even miss my dog.
>> i said, if you think you're going to have regrets then don't do it.
>> reporter: gabby not only decided to stay in iowa, she roared back in competition. scoring an upset to win the u.s. gymnastics trials. and in london, both families have been in the stands celebrating the team gold medal led by her proud mom.
>> she is energetic, caring, compassionate. you know, if i didn't know her i'd want to meet her.
>> reporter: now the world is having a chance to meet gabby douglas . gabby really has that star quality . you can't buy it. you can't fake it. you can't teach it. but the whole family is that way. frankly, at this olympics, brian, they've got a lot to smile about.
>> we get to see it tonight. millions of us. chris, thanks. chris jansing with her story.