Gymnast Gabby Douglas America's sweetheart

CHRIS BARRETT
Last updated 05:09 11/08/2012
Gabby Douglas
Getty Images
AMERICA'S SWEETHEART: Gabby Douglas holds a ceral box with her image on it.

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America's latest sporting darling is not afraid of the limelight.

Gabby Douglas, the 16-year-old from Virginia who won double gymnastics gold in London, does not have time to hang around for the Olympics closing ceremony this weekend.

Instead, she will head home to hit the night-time talkshow circuit, and because she is just as competent in front of a microphone as she is on the floor she is certain to be a hit.

Douglas's face is already on cereal packets across the US, and she has won among others the adulation of Serena Williams, who watched her every move at the Games after herself winning a pair of tennis gold medals at Wimbledon.

With a delightful mix of all-American confidence and innocent teenage swagger, Douglas does not mind all the attention. And as for being America's new sweetheart, well, that's fine too. "I think it sits very well," Douglas said. "It's definitely fitting because everyone just says they love my smile so why not use it on the floor? I was kind of America's sweetheart leading into the Games and it made me feel so good that America loved me."

Douglas has had just about every fragment of her life dissected by an adoring media as a result of her performance here, where she became the first African-American woman to win the individual all-round competition.

She is now the new face of the sport, and even the likes of Williams cannot get enough of her.

"Serena Williams is definitely a big fan of me and I'm definitely a big fan of hers," Douglas said.

"There are very few coloured athletes in this sport. To go down in history to be the first African-American to win a gold . . . I think more people of colour are coming to the gymnastics world and thinking ‘if Gabby can do it, I can do it'. I've always wanted to inspire people.

"I wasn't the richest girl on the block. My family kind of struggled over the past years. It was kind of hard at times - I'm just so thankful for the funding because it definitely helped my family out of situations."

Bring on Letterman and all the rest. Douglas's victory lap in the US will be a charm offensive most will struggle to resist.

"Life is going to change for me in a big way. I'm going to get home and there (are) going to be so many fans. I heard cameras and camera crews are at the airport waiting for me. It's going to change in a big way that I'm not going to be prepared for, but I'm so glad to go home and see my family and my dogs."

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