In six months, 16-year-old Gabby Douglas has gone from Olympic gymnast to Olympic champion to world traveler to author.
And now she has made Barbara Walters’ list of “The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2012.”
Douglas is joining actor/producer Ben Affleck, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, British boy band One Direction and Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson in the top 10 list at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday on ABC.
“She is such a fascinating woman herself,” Douglas said of Walters. “I was really nervous because she is this amazing icon. Once we started chatting, we started feeding off each other. My nerves went away.”
Douglas talked in detail about her childhood, the money struggles, an estranged father, her hair, moving away from home to train and what life is like today. And she also had a special moment after taping.
“We were filming on her birthday in September in New York. It was such a blast,” Douglas said. “After the interview, we all sang ‘Happy Birthday.’ We gave her a cake. I can’t imagine telling people that I sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Barbara Walters!”
It has been that kind of year for Douglas, who won two gold medals at the Summer Olympic Games, went on a U.S. tour with other gymnasts following the London Games and wrote a book about her path from Virginia Beach, Va., to the Olympics.
Playbook had a few minutes to talk with Douglas about her jam-packed year.
You’ve just released your autobiography, “Grace, Gold and Glory: My Leap of Faith.” You talk a lot about your difficult journey and your distant relationship with your mostly absent father. When did you have time to write it and how emotional was it to put it on paper?
I actually wrote the book on the three-month gymnastics tour right after the Olympics. It was very difficult through parts of the book, but it was fun digging into my memories of the good times. I’ve always wanted to write a book. It’s my life story.
How did you remember everything?
I’m 16! I love saying, ‘Remember this one time! And remember when we did this!’ I get to go back deep in thought. Sometimes I randomly laugh thinking about things I’ve done. When you’re 16, it’s not like I have to remember that long ago.
And what was it like when you finished?
I felt really accomplished, especially writing it during the tour. I’m glad I finished. I feel great. I can check it off my list. It’s really exciting. I did forget to put some things in, but that’s OK. I’m happy with how the book came out.
The book detailed a lot about how your family helped you through some difficult times, including you wanting to give up the sport to work at Chick-fil-A.
My family means so much to me. They have been there for my whole gymnastics career, especially through my difficult times. And they were there to cheer me all the way to London.
You’ve been a great role model for today’s youth. What does that responsibility mean to you?
I’m still the same Gabby. I’m bubbly and energetic and that won’t change. I love to laugh. I love to show everyone my personality. I know there are a lot of people watching me and my every move. I’m not worried about doing things that are bad for me. I’m not going to act like that. The only thing I worry about is whether I need to rub lotion on my knees.
What do you tell young people when you meet them about their goals?
You can achieve anything if you work very hard. I’m not talking just about gymnastics, but it could be track or soccer. It’s all about heart and dedication and having fun. You’ll get there.
Do you think you’d feel differently if you didn’t win at the Olympics?
I’m still the same, winning or not. I still would tell people I’m an Olympian and I performed on the world-class stage. I tried everything. I moved to Iowa. I moved away from my family. I tried everything and gave it my all.
Me and my family are getting ready to take a vacation. We’re going on a cruise to the Caribbean. I went when I was younger. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
And those buffets!
I do have a burger now and then. I don’t really eat bad foods every day. I do occasionally have some fries. My routine is usually soup, sandwich, salmon and I love sushi. I don’t really like greasy foods. But I do love ice cream.
Then it’s back to training for 2016 in Rio?
It’s been tough thinking about it. I’ve been traveling so much. I haven’t had much time to work out. I’m not in Olympic shape like I was in London. I’m blessed to have a fast metabolism. I’m ready to take on my new challenges.