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Media spotlight burns bright on Olympic champion Gabby Douglas

Olympic gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas signs her name locally painted portrait before dinner Monday evening Genesis Center Gary. | Jeffrey

Olympic gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas signs her name to a locally painted portrait before dinner Monday evening at the Genesis Center in Gary. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 17, 2012 6:17AM



GARY — It’s been a whirlwind few months for Olympic gymnastics champion Gabrielle Douglas since winning two gold medals in August at the 2012 London Olympics.

The Virginia Beach, Va., native is halfway through the 40-city Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions, which just stopped in Chicago, and she’s in demand for endorsements from Proctor and Gamble to Nintendo. Not to mention, the numerous interviews and luncheons where she shares the story of the hard work that paid off with her Olympic triumph.

It’s a wonder she has time to pause and take a breath. In a Monday morning interview, Douglas admitted that the overnight transformation to a recognized public figure has been a little on the crazy side.

“It’s still so surreal,” she said. “I went from a nobody at (Olympic) trials to an up and comer, then — bam! — everybody knows me.”

Douglas caused a stir when she walked into Indiana University Northwest’s Savannah Center, with students pulling out their cell phones to get a photo of the 4-foot-11 dynamo. Douglas actually appeared a little taller in her stylish black platforms and her hair was styled in long waves as she spoke to area students at the Barden Foundation’s annual scholarship kickoff luncheon. Douglas has deep Gary ties as her mom, Natalie Hawkins, was born in Gary, and her grandfather, Theodore Hawkins, still lives here.

Douglas shined in the all-around and team competitions in London, but she has enjoyed the change of pace of the Kellogg’s tour, which stops in Kansas City, Mo., on Oct. 18.

“It’s a chance to show off our personalities with different moves, costumes, hairstyles and music,” Douglas said. “We do some beautiful classical lines on beam. We also get a little crazy and interact with the audience.”

After the tour ends on Nov. 18, Douglas plans on resuming her gymnastics training with coach Liang Chow at Chow’s Gymnastics in West Des Moines, Iowa, with an eye toward the 2016 Olympics.

“I want to make the 2016 Rio Olympics team — that’s a goal I’ve set for myself,” Douglas said. “I’m a little out of shape right now.”

The future looks bright for Douglas, who is only in her second year of senior-level gymnastics, but she has a few more goals in mind.

“I want to compete in more world championships, so I can get some more stamps on my passport,” Douglas said.



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