The Olympic gymnast took home the Diamond Mask trophy and was unmasked as Cotton Candy on Wednesday's finale

February 17, 2021 10:10 PM
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Cotton Candy scored a sweet victory Wednesday night when she won the first season of The Masked Dancer. The sugary confection was unmasked as Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, who claimed the Diamond Mask trophy.

"I loved the journey and every single part about Masked Dancer," the two-time Olympic gold medalist, 25, tells PEOPLE. "I love the fact that it was so mysterious. And I'm a huge fan of The Masked Singer, because me and my family, we love being detectives."

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As for how winning the show's Diamond Mask trophy compares to taking home a medal at the Olympics, Douglas says, "It's definitely up there. I would say it's neck and neck, to be honest."

The Virginia native incorporated her gymnastics background into her routines, with her final performance to The Greatest Showman's "This Is Me" featuring backflips and leaps. "Gymnastics definitely helped me out," she says, adding that at the same time, "It was definitely different with moving as the character."

Gabby Douglas
| Credit: Rich Polk/Getty; Fox

Douglas reflects on competing again, the Olympics' delay and her Masked Dancer fall.

Did being a gymnast make you feel confident going into the show?
Dancing is more rhythm, and gymnastics is more still, static poses. But it did help me out with picking up choreography very, very fast and also having a ball out on the floor.

How did being in the costume affect the way you were able to move?
We had so many takes with the costume on, as much as we could get. Because I really wanted to make sure that I didn't water any pieces or dance moves down. Her costume did get in the way at certain times, but for the most part, everything went smoothly.

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Was it fun to train and compete for something like this again?
It was. It was so extraordinary. I've never done anything like this before, no aerial work or even partner work. That was super new for me, but I love a good challenge. I love to go outside of myself and try so many different things.

Did you practice your moves at home?
Every single number, I went home and practiced it for like another four hours. I was up at like 12:00 a.m., 3:00 a.m. practicing these numbers. Because it was so beautiful and so dynamic. And I was like, "I have to do every single piece justice. I have to get all these details right."

Viewers relived your fall from earlier in the season during Wednesday's recap portion of the finale. How were you feeling at that moment? Were you worried it was going to be the end of your time on the show?
No. I was so fortunate to have CC's costume on because that did pad the fall. I had a big, old fluffy skirt on and I had the mask on. But my first thought was, "I can't believe I fell." And my second thought was, "I'm so mad that I fell." But when I did fall, I was checking my teeth because I was like, "Okay, my teeth are priority. I don't want to have a missing tooth or chipped tooth." But it actually inspired me and motivated me even more. It made me pay attention to detail. Because my left shoulder got outside of the hoop and I was like, "Okay, I have to pay attention. I can't take anything for granted."

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What did you make of being guessed incorrectly as Olympic figure skaters Tara Lipinski and Kristi Yamaguchi?
I literally was like, "Do I look like a figure skater?" But I think the first number really threw them off because I was on a scooter and then there was fog and it kind of looked like an ice skating performance. But it was a huge honor because I love figure skating.

You talked in one of the clue packages about feeling like you missed out on some of your teenage years because of competing. How do you look back on that now?
I'm very fortunate that, first of all, my mom taught me all about perspective and she says, "Not everyone gets to have a certain talent or go out and compete for a country, win medals." So I really had to flip my perspective — which, you know, she was right. I'm so fortunate. I'm grateful for all the opportunities I've been able to experience over my whole entire life.

Credit: Melissa J. Perenson/CSM/REX/Shutterstock

What was your reaction last year when the IOC pushed back the Olympics?
I was like, "Oh my goodness. Wow." I totally understand because the safety of your health is definitely the most important that you should be focused on. So it was totally understandable.

How does it affect an athlete and their training schedule for there to be this kind of uncertainty with the Games?
It throws a huge wrench into the plan. Because you are so ready for this moment. You trained your whole life for this moment. And then it's like, "Okay, cancel it." You're kind of on the fence and that just destroys your mental game. You're like, "Do I work hard? Of course, you work hard, but like, when do I fully go?" Because I have to know this is it.

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If you're training hard for that long, is there potential for burnout before the Olympics?
Yeah. Because you don't know if it is going to happen. And you're like, okay, do I kind of step back? Do I go? But I don't want to sit back too much because then I don't want to be lazy. I don't want to get in that habit of okay, let's take a day off. And then again, you don't want to go too hard because like you said, you're going to get burned out. So it's really hard to develop that balance.

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer on NBC.

This interview was edited for clarity.