After the 1996 U.S. Olympic women's gymnastics team stunned the world by winning their first gold medal in Olympic history in the most dramatic of fashions, it was all but impossible to avoid the juggernaut they became. The team was interviewed on every talk show that could get a hold of their booker, went on a nationwide tour and landed their own Wheaties box.
The Fab Five have already begun a media blitz of their own by sitting for countless interviews, including the Today Show. A number of American Sweethearts have come out of the gymnastics world since 1996 (Carly Patterson, Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin), but no gymnasts have captivated America the way that the Fab Five has since the Magnificent Seven of 1996.
The outpouring of support for Team USA wasn't limited to the airwaves. The Twitterverse exploded with congratulatory tweets from celebrities and ordinary Americans alike. The gymnasts received tweets from the likes of Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Justin Bieber, whose tweet may have meant as much to the girls as the gold medals themselves. Even President Obama got in on the act, calling to offer his congratulations.
The young ladies of the Fab Five will tour the country soon as part of the Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics, giving them an opportunity to see just how much of an effect they've had on their country. These young athletes likely have little idea what they're in store for, but they will soon see just how much support they have throughout the country.
It will be impossible for a generation to know what effect Gabby Douglas' gold medal in the all-around will have. She is the first African-American to ever win the gold medal in the all-around in gymnastics.
As Bob Costas put it during NBC's coverage of the event,
"Much of America has fallen in love with Gabby Douglas. Also safe to say that there are some young African-American girls out there who tonight are saying to themselves, 'Hey, I'd like to try that, too.'"
Just as Douglas was first inspired to take up gymnastics by the sight of Dominique Dawes, she might have a similar effect on a new generation of young gymnasts.
After controversies in 2008 over the age of the Chinese women's team and in 2004 over the scoring of Paul Hamm's all-around effort, the success of the 2012 team is exactly what gymnastics needs.
There are already reports of increased interest amongst young girls in gymnastics, and just as we heard that the members of the 2012 team were inspired by the 1996 gymnasts, we will almost certainly see the gymnasts of the 2028 team speaking about the influence that the 2012 Fab Five had on them.