Gabby Douglas may have been part of a five-person dream team during this year’s London Olympics, but she managed to get quite a bit of media scrutiny and attention on her own. The press dissed her hair and made her mother’s personal finances public knowledge, briefly skewing the spotlight away from her talents. But she was so eloquent on the mats, so small and vulnerable and yet filled with such strength and energy, that she stole everyone’s hearts and won back the attention she deserved. She became the first African-American to win the highly sought-after All Around trophy and took home two gold medals, proving that she was doing what she’s meant to do.
But it was not always the case; unfortunately for Gabby, she says her fellow gymnasts in Virginia Beach–her hometown–bullied her and threw racial slurs around during training.
“When she was fourteen, she said, “I’d rather quit”, her mother says during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. “If I can’t move and train with another coach, I’d rather quit the sport.”
Eventually, Gabby’s family did move, to Des Moines, Iowa. She trained at the same gym where Shawn Johnson trained and went on to become a world-class Olympic athlete, which has to be an even better feeling knowing where she was just a few years ago.