An excerpt from Chapter One of Douglas’s book:
MY MOTHER ALMOST DIED ON THE DAY SHE HAD ME: DECEMBER 31,
1995. As Mom gripped the arm rails of her hospital bed in
Newport News, Virginia, a doctor and nurse tripped over
themselves trying to stop her from bleeding to death. No
one could figure out exactly why she was hemorrhaging
so badly, but they finally gave Mom a series of medications
that made her blood clot. An hour later, a nurse
bundled me up and placed my six-pound, five-ounce body
in Mom’s arms — that warm spot I’ve returned to a thousand
It’s hard to believe that at the beginning of the year Gabrielle Douglas was a homesick 16-year-old in Iowa who said she considered returning home to Virginia Beach, Va., with her family and working at Chick-fil-A instead of continuing to train as a gymnast for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
But that’s where she was earlier in 2012.
Now, with 2012 coming to a close, she finds herself in an entirely different situation. Douglas, known by most Americans now simply as “Gabby,” is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, having captured the all-around crown in London as well as the team gold medal. The 4-foot-11 dynamo became the first African-American to win the Olympic all-around title. She joins an elite group of American women who have won the all-around: Nastia Liukin (2008), Carly Patterson (2004) and Mary Lou Retton (1984) being the others.
Since her winning ways in London, Douglas hobnobbed with the likes of Oprah Winfrey and President Barack Obama, she toured across the nation with her “Fierce Five” teammates in 40 cities with the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions and even penned an autobiography, “Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith”. Barbara Walters named Douglas one of the most fascinating people of the year.
But wait. There’s more.
She hasn’t even turned 17.
Douglas still has her birthday to celebrate, which comes at the bitter end of the year, on Dec. 31.
Talk about someone who will be hard to shop for.
TeamUSA.org got a few minutes with Douglas, who was recently named the Associated Press’ 2012 Female Athlete of the Year (Michael Phelps won the AP honors on the men’s side), and here’s what she had to say about the eventful 2012 she had.
This interview was conducted on Dec. 17, 2012.
TeamUSA.org: First of all, congratulations on your achievements this past year. Where are you now?
Douglas: Thanks so much. This past year has been just amazing. Going to Iowa and living with my host family and being an older sister to that family’s daughters and then going to the Olympics and now coming out with my own book. It’s been exciting. I’m actually in Richmond (Va.) right now on my book tour.
TeamUSA.org: How will you spend the upcoming holiday and your birthday?
Douglas: I am going on a cruise to the Caribbean to celebrate Christmas. I still haven’t decided what I might do for my birthday. I want to go to New York City and see the ball drop. I have never gotten a chance to do that on my birthday. That would be really, really cool.
TeamUSA.org: How does it feel to have the word, “author,” on your resume?
Douglas: It’s been so fun. I love meeting the fans. I always wanted to write a book, even before the Olympics.
TeamUSA.org: When did you find time to write?
Douglas: That’s a good question. I did a lot of writing while I was on the Kellogg’s tour. I’d write late at night or early in the morning. I’d sit and work on it on my iPad.
TeamUSA.org: You mentioned the fun you’ve had meeting your fans. What has been the most unusual place where you met one of your fans?
Douglas: That’s hard. Hmm. Oh, yeah, when I was in L.A., I was walking down the street and this guy was driving and saw me. He stopped and jumped out of his car and asked if he could take a picture of me. I was like, ‘Uh … OK.’ That was weird.
TeamUSA.org: You mentioned before the Games about how much you like to dance and you got a chance to be on ‘Dancing With The Stars” with your Olympic teammates and with Shawn Johnson, with whom you trained in Iowa. Any possibility you will be on the show as a contestant?
Douglas: Not right now. I had a lot of fun on the show but I want to get back into the gym in the late spring.
TeamUSA.org: Will you go back to Iowa to train? And is competing in the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games part of the plan?
Douglas: Yes, I will go back to Iowa. I’d really like to work toward 2016.
Amy Rosewater is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.