Gabby Douglas, the electrifying diminutive dynamo who in the London Olympics became the first African-American female gymnast to capture the gold medal, was named by the Associated Press as the Female Athlete of the Year.
The soon-to-be-17-year-old with a smile worth millions said she has been overwhelmed with her popularity.
‘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.”
Douglas took the honors over Missy Franklin, a swimmer who also had a brilliant Olympics. Upon her return to the United States after winning the all-around gold with breath-taking flights, Douglas was faced with the reality of her stardom.
”I didn’t realize how much of an impact I made,” Douglas said. ”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.”
Douglas received 48 of 157 votes, Franklin, who won four gold medals and a bronze in London, had 41. Serena Williams was third with 24.
Others receiving votes includign Britney Griner, who led Baylor to a 40-0 record and the NCAA title, and skier Lindsey Vonn, with each receiving 18 votes. Sprinter Allyson Felix, who won three gold medals in London, and Carli Lloyd, who scored both U.S. goals in the Americans’ 2-1 victory over Japan in the gold-medal game, also received votes.
Julie Jag, sports editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel said, “One of the few years the women’s (Athlete of the Year) choices are more compelling than the men.”
This honor just magnified Douglas’ remarkable ascent. She was not considered an Olympic contender at the start of the year, but combined a bubbly persona with vast improvement in all areas of competition.