When Virginia Beach gymnast Gabby Douglas allowed herself to dream of being the Olympic champion, she imagined having a nice little dinner with family and friends to celebrate. Maybe she’d make an appearance here and there.
“I didn’t think it was going to be crazy,” Douglas said, laughing. “I love it. But I realized my perspective was going to have to change.”
Just a bit.
The teenager, who honed her skills at an early age at Excalibur Gymnastics, has become a worldwide star since winning the Olympic all-around title in London, becoming the first African-American gymnast to claim gymnastics’ biggest prize. And now she has earned another honor.
Friday, she was selected The Associated Press’ female athlete of the year, edging out swimmer Missy Franklin in a vote by U.S. editors and news directors.
“I didn’t realize how much of an impact I made,” said Douglas, who turns 17 on Dec. 31. “My mom and everyone said, ‘You really won’t know the full impact until you’re 30 or 40 years old.’ But it’s starting to sink in.”
In a year filled with standout performances by female athletes, those of the pint-sized gymnast shined brightest. Douglas received 48 of 157 votes, seven more than Franklin, who won four gold medals and a bronze in London. Serena Williams, who won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open two years after her career was nearly derailed by a series of health problems, was third (24).