It’s hard to imagine the Fierce Five — the gold medal-winning U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team at the 2012 Summer Olympics — without individual all-around champion Gabrielle Douglas. But there was a time, not that long ago, when the bright young star didn’t know if she had or even wanted a future in the sport.
The 16-year-old phenom, nicknamed “the Flying Squirrel” for her amazing aerial acrobatics on the uneven bars, stopped by Us Weekly‘s New York City office recently to chat about life after London, meeting the President, and the thing that nearly prevented her from going after the gold.
“It was very hard to overcome being away from [my] family,” the Virginia-born gymnast told Us of her nonstop traveling and training schedule, noting that it was especially difficult to say goodbye after they visited her on the road. “It’s a very strong thing. It almost drove me to quit the sport that I love and [kept me] from achieving my dreams.”
Now, of course, she can’t imagine quitting. “Life without gymnastics? I don’t think so,” she said. “I’ve always been in the gym, like 24/7, just tumbling. Even when I’m not in the gym, I [do] cartwheels down the hallway!”
Lately, she added, she’s been itching to get back on the mat. “I think I’m going through gymnastics withdrawals,” she joked to Us, explaining that her many media appearances haven’t left her any time to train. (Douglas recently performed with the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions and also just released a book, Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith, about her ascent to greatness.) Not that she’s complaining.
“It’s been fun,” she said of her hectic post-Olympics experience. “When I came home [from London], I went straight to L.A. and did the Jay Leno show with the First Lady. Not bad at all!”
Also not bad? Meeting the First Lady’s husband, President Barack Obama. In November, Douglas and her teammates — McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross, and Jordyn Wieber — traveled to the White House for a quick visit with the Commander-in-Chief.
“The President was amazing,” Douglas told Us. “We went to the Oval Office, sat in his chair, and he gave us presidential M&Ms! I ate mine…but I still have the box.”
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