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Barbie rakes in the gold

Mattel's Barbie has had a lot of vocations in her more than 35 years on this planet. She has always worked. At first, she had typically girly-girly occupations like model, secretary, stewardess, then she branched out: executive, doctor, pilot.

With each step up the job ladder, where she has yet to burst through the Plastic Ceiling (Barbie for President?), she has been a very acquisitive person, which is the American way, right? What little girl could forget Barbie's soda fountain, her coral Corvette, the Malibu condo (to go with Malibu Barbie, she of the waist-length hair and preternatural suntan).

Lately, however, Barbie has taken on a different kind of status as a world-class athlete (Mattel is nothing if not timely), and the latest wrinkle (which you will never see in our girl's placid and plastic face) is Olympic Gymnast Barbie.

Her famous figure is aerobicized into fetching slimness and covered in a star-strewn, red-and-blue catsuit over which she is wearing a white leotard emblazoned with "Atlanta 1996."

Accessories include a huge gym bag, a hairbrush to neaten up the longest platinum ponytail this side of Trigger and a nifty little "magical tumbling ring" that goes around her waist to make her do cartwheels and half gainers.

Barbie must have trained like mad. She got her own gold medal before the games even started. Olympic Gymnast Barbie will set you back $14, which, these days, is nearly a bargain. FAO Schwarz reports that she is leaping off the shelves.

Whether this doll becomes the collector's item that the No. 1 Barbie (circa 1958) became depends on whether or not you're willing to keep her in the box and hold on to her for another 35 years. Barbie is, after all, a toy, and toys, no matter how glamorous they may be, are meant to get out and have fun.