February 22, 2018

Gabrielle Douglas Has More Character Than We Knew

By Julie Samrick

Our first African American all-around gold medalist in women’s gymnastics is also just a young girl with the same issues many high school kids her age have.


Gabrielle (who likes her formal name instead of Gabby) sat down with Oprah recently and explained how the racism and bullying she experienced at her hometown Virginia gym was the lesser known reason she switched gyms and moved to Iowa.  A chance to be taught by famed coach Liang Chow is the more advertised reason behind the decision.


Douglas’s mom, Natalie Hawkins, told Oprah that Gabrielle even said she’d rather quit the sport than stay in Virginia.


Take a look at the interview here:


Now her hometown gym, Excalibur in Virginia Beach, is lashing back, understandably embarrassed. “The accusations that are being made against the gymnasts and coaches are just sickening,” Excalibur’s Randy Stageburg told Gymnewstics.com in a statement. “Gabby was never a victim- in fact many would say she was one of the favorites. I never once heard her complain about girls being mean; funny how it is just now coming up.”


But why would Gabrielle make up that some girls called her their “slave” among other hurtful things?  Watching her with Oprah, Gabrielle recounted the humiliating details with her trademark grace and smile.  There was no bitterness and certainly no victim mentality.


Gabrielle’s story should be a lesson for us all.  She knew she deserved better treatment than she was receiving. This isn’t an athlete spending a few hours a week at a gym- she’s there more than she’s home. So without a lot of ruckus, a young girl made some tough decisions on her own, like leaving her family to move over 1,000 miles away.  She also didn’t expect to change the mean girls and certainly didn’t let their ignorant views rub off on her.  Instead, Gabrielle independently shaped her future (which is a lot to say for a 16-year-old).


What’s even sweeter is that her future, at least in the short term, has proven to be golden…times two.

Gabrielle Douglas

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