SANTIAGO, Chile — Kaliya Lincoln was once a 12-year-old girl being coached by her hero Gabby Douglas, the first black gymnast to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games. Fast forward five years and the teenager from Frisco, Texas, is the gold medalist on the floor exercise at the Pan American Games in Chile.
A member of the US gymnastics gold-winning team in Santiago, the 17-year-old newcomer is expected to get a push from the result in Santiago to make it to the Paris Olympics next year.
“It has been quite a year,” Lincoln said after winning gold. “I have to keep it up, there’s so many great athletes out there. Being part of this team is a privilege, I think I have already learned that from some of the best.”
Lincoln, who did not compete at the world championship earlier this month, beat two favorites to win the title, adding 14.233 points. Her compatriot Kayla DiCello, the Pan American all-around champion, and Brazilian Flávia Saraiva shared the silver, with both scoring 13.733 points.
In August, Lincoln got the silver medal on the floor exercise at the US Classic, tied with Joscelyn Roberson. She later finished second in the US National Gymnastics Championships, with only superstar Simone Biles in front of her.
Lincoln’s history with Douglas, the three-time Olympic gold-medalist, started on the TV program “Undercover Boss: Celebrity Edition.” In disguise, the veteran gymnast helped three young athletes seeking to reach her success, including the newly crowned Pan American champion. The two later became friends.
The floor exercise gold medal in the continent’s largest multisports event is a big push for Lincoln, who started in gymnastics at age 5. Now 17, she spends more than 30 hours a week training.
Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade, one of the stars of the Pan American Games, chose not to compete in the floor exercise. Earlier Wednesday, the last day of artistic gymnastics in Santiago, she won her second gold medal in the balance-beam competition.
“I am very happy and proud to have come here after such a long world championship, make good series, good presentations,” Andrade told journalists. “I felt ready and confident to do what I needed. It was an excellent debut in Pan American Games, I can’t complain.”
Biles’ rival and friend Andrade also won gold in vault on Tuesday.
Image credits: AP