LONDON — When Gabby Douglas arrived at the London Olympics all she wanted to do was meet Usain Bolt.
But after the 16-year-old American added the Olympic all-round title to her gymnastics team gold on Thursday, it might be the world’s fastest man seeking a meeting with her.
Dressed in a shimmering pink leotard, Douglas dazzled a packed North Greenwich Arena with her cheeky personality and a jaw-dropping exhibition of high-flying acrobatics that heralded the arrival of the London Games newest sensation.
By the time Douglas was wrapping up her evening with a floor routine, the gymnast nicknamed the “Flying Squirrel” had the massive crowd on its feet and eating out of her hand, finishing with a playful wave before diving into the arms of her coach Liang Chow.
Douglas edged Russian Victoria Komova 62.232 to 61.973. A tiebreak settled the bronze medal, with Russian Aliya Mustafina far happier with her lot than Komova with her silver after beating American Aly Raisman on a tally of their best three of the four apparatus scores.
“It just feels amazing to be called the Olympic champion, so much hard work, effort and passion and determination in the gym,” Douglas told reporters after claiming gymnastics biggest prize. “You have to push it every day. It definitely feels amazing.
“The all-around matters to me. People keep saying I’m the first black American to win the gold medal and I’m so honored.”
Armed with cute nickname, a megawatt smile, a compelling back-story and two gold medals with maybe more to come in apparatus finals, it is certain fame and fortune await the teenager when she returns home to the United States.
The subject of a pre-games article in Time magazine, Douglas shared the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Olympic edition with her “Fierce Five” teammates, but the first black American to wear the all-round crown looks ready to emerge from the games as a marketing dynamo.
“I didn’t realize that,” said Douglas when asked about the endorsements and opportunities waiting for her.
Seizing the moment will also be on the minds of the men and women who will market Douglas as they try to capitalize on the fame that can be fleeting in the sport of women’s gymnastics.