The gold medals were kept in a box, almost as much of an attraction as the athlete who won them. And when Gabby Douglas took them out, the amazed children at Coleman Country Day Camp in Merrick erupted in a chorus of oohh’s and aahh’s.
Douglas, a three-time Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast, spent Monday morning answering questions, taking pictures, and even showing off a few backflips and somersaults for the nearly 1,000 campers who were led into the camp’s gymnasium.
“It means so much knowing that I can be here for these kids, come out and inspire them, and do a little gymnastics with them, as well,” Douglas, 21, said during a brief session with reporters.
Douglas was part of the team that won gold at last summer’s Olympic Games in Rio and won a team championship and an individual all-around gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. She was the first African-American to win an all-around Olympic gold medal.
The questions from those inquisitive campers covered it all. Did Douglas hobnob with any other Olympic gold medalists? (Yes, Kobe and LeBron, she told a group of awestruck boys.) What was it like to meet Zac Efron? (Predictably awesome, she told a gaggle of suddenly jealous girls.) Was she single? (She wasn’t telling, she told one particularly bold boy.)
And, through the very public inquisition touching on all areas of Douglas’ life, it all came back to those medals. Were they heavy? (Not particularly.) Were they difficult to get through an airport? (Incredibly so!) The campers wanted to touch them, hold them, gaze at them. Douglas, who was more than happy to show them off, said she isn’t sure that there will be any more medals in her future. She simply hasn’t made up her mind about whether she wants to compete again.
“I don’t know,” Douglas said. “It’s up in the air. I’m just enjoying my time with family and friends.”
For now, the possibility that Douglas’ time on the competitive floor is over seems very real. Motivation, she said, will be the main factor in her decision.
“I’ve been doing gymnastics for 14 years now,” she told campers. “It’s really grueling on my mind and body. My mind and body are resting right now.”