Gabby Douglas Named Female Athlete of the Year By AP

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Olympic gymnastics champion Gabby Douglas was selected The Associated Press' female athlete of the year for 2012, edging out swimmer Missy Franklin.

''I didn't realize how much of an impact I made,'' said Douglas, 16, the first African-American to win the Olympic all-around title, gymnastics' biggest prize.

Gabby Douglas' Pony Tail

''My mom and everyone tells me, 'You really won't know the full impact until you're 30 or 40 years old.' But I think it's starting to sink in a little.''

In a year filled with standout female athletes, the pint-sized gymnast's performances shone just a little bit brighter. Douglas received 48 of 157 votes.

Missy Franklin, who won four golds and a bronze in London, received 41. Serena Williams, who won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in tennis, got 24.

Britney Griner, who led Baylor to a 40-0 record and the NCAA basketball title, and skier Lindsey Vonn each got 18 votes in the annual writer survey.

Douglas, who turns 17 December 31, is the fourth gymnast to win one of the AP's annual awards since 1931, and first since Mary Lou Retton in 1984.

She wasn't even in the conversation for the Olympic title at the start of 2012.

That quickly changed in March when she upstaged reigning world champion and teammate Jordyn Wieber at the American Cup in New York City.

She finished a close second to Wieber at the U.S. championships, then beat her two weeks later at the Olympic trials. Her confidence kept growing.

By the time the Americans got to London, Douglas had emerged as the most consistent gymnast on what was arguably the best U.S. team ever.

She posted the team's highest score on all but one event in qualifying and was the only gymnast to compete in all four events during team finals.

The Americans beat the Russians in a rout for their second Olympic title, and first since 1996. Two nights later, Gabby Douglas won the individual all-around.

Congratulations to Gabby on this well-deserved honor! Even McKayla Maroney is bound to be just a little bit impressed by her teammate's feat ...

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