The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 2, 2013

Olympic gymnast: Follow your dreams

— LEWISBURG — From competing on the Olympic stage to meeting President Barack Obama, Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas shared her memories of her whirlwind rise to fame Tuesday night at Bucknell University.

The Weis Center’s 1,200 seats were nearly full as the 4-foot-11, 17-year-old gymnast took the stage for the question-and-answer session.

Douglas shot to superstardom after winning the gold medal in the 2012 all-around and team gymnastics competitions, becoming the first woman of color of any nationality to win the title.

“Just standing up on the podium was amazing,” she said.

The gymnast talked about preparing to take the stage in front of the crowds and getting homesick six months before the Olympics in London.

“I almost quit, like six or seven months before because I was so homesick,” she said. “I just wanted to go home and wanted to run track and work at Chick-fil-A.”

But Douglas said her desire to inspire other young people kept her going.

“I had a choice to go all the way,” she said. “My mom and I were talking, and she said I could inspire the nation. Just to inspire young (people), that kept me going.”

But the Olympics aren’t all work, she said. Parties in the Olympic Village were common last summer.

“It is a little wild; there were parties,” she said. “But people were just so happy to be at the Olympics.”

Douglas said she did have some star-struck moments.

“The swimmers were cute,” she said, laughing.

Douglas said the highlight of her post-Olympic tour, which included her leading the national anthem at the 2012 Democratic National Convention and being named to Barbara Walters’ “10 Most Fascinating People of 2012” list, was meeting the Obamas.

“It was very exciting,” she said. “We were standing in this office, really nervous, and he was like, ‘Relax, guys.’”

She also said Oprah Winfrey was a friendly, welcoming person.

“When she stepped out of the car, I was like, ‘It’s Auntie Oprah,’” she said. “I felt like I knew her.”

Her teammates also have gone on to big things, with Aly Raisman competing on this season of “Dancing With the Stars.”

“I didn’t get to watch her on Monday, but everyone told me she did really well,” Douglas said. “I’m proud of her.”

And even though it’s been a stressful and tiring year, Douglas said she wouldn’t change a thing.

“I also have to look at it in perspective,” she said. “I just enjoy it. It’s so much fun.”

Douglas offered words of wisdom to athletes and others in the audience, telling them to never give up.

“One little mistake happens, just don’t worry about it,” she said. “Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”

Douglas said she’s glad she never gave up on her dream of being a champion.

“I would have been watching it on TV and regretting it,” she said. “That’s the worst thing in life is to have regret.”

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