Gabby grabs gold
She's a little powerhouse of talent, that young lady named Gabrielle "Gabby" Douglas. She made all kinds of history at the 2012 Olympics in London this week including winning the Team All-Around Gold Medal in Gymnastics alongside her teammates, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and Jordyn Wieber.
Douglas also won the Gold Medal in the Individual All-Around in Gymnastics, becoming the first African-American woman and first woman of colour to win the event. She is also the first American gymnast ever to win both the team and individual all-around gold medals at the same Olympics.
At the US final trials for the Olympics Douglas became the darling of not only of America, but she also captured the hearts of Trinbagonians watching the gymnastics leg of the trials. Performances like hers, along with her personal story of gritty determination at such a young age, put a little bit more spring in our step, a little more joy in our Olympics-minded heart.
As a 14-year-old from Virginia Beach, Douglas told her mother that if she was to achieve her Olympics dream, she'd need to coach with the best. And Liang Chow, coach of Shawn Johnson, the 2008 gymnastic champion, lives in Iowa. She'd need to scrape up the funds and leave her family to make it happen. And with the help of many, including her family, she did.
Douglas' is the kind of Olympic story we should hang on to. Among the frustrations of the many controversies of the Games we pause for a moment to appreciate a young girl, seemingly untarnished by worldly issues, take on the world and win.
One of the most beautiful parts of her win was her "forgetting" for a moment that in her all-around win she broke a colour barrier. Because this young woman didn't compete to break a barrier, she competed to achieve most every little girl's dream, being at the top of the field in a sport she loves. It was not an easy road though as Douglas says.
"I just want people to know it took a lot," she said. "It took a lot of hard days in the gym and determination, passion and drive. Gold medals are made out of your sweat, blood and tears, and effort in the gym every day, and sacrificing a lot that you have to do. It's so meaningful to be the first African-American to win the all-around gold medal in the individual and making the history books is definitely one of the perks,'' she said. "It just feels amazing," Douglas said.
Kelloggs was quick to pounce, putting the Gold Medal winning gymnast on Corn Flakes boxes only hours after the gymnast claimed the all-around title Thursday. Kelloggs acted just as quickly in 2008, when the cereal giant lured Michael Phelps as an endorser after his historic performance at the Beijing Games.
Douglas is the first African-American to make the US women's gymnastics team since her idol, Dominique Dawes, in 1996. Douglas, born in 1995, is the daughter of Timothy Douglas and Natalie Hawkins. She began training in gymnastics at age six when her older sister, Arielle, convinced their mother to enrol her in gymnastics classes.
When Douglas was eight years old she won an all-around gymnastics award for her level at the 2004 Virginia State Championships. Douglas decided that in order to develop to the standard needed to make the Olympic Team she had to travel to Iowa to train under Liang Chow. Her mother had reservations over this, however, and Douglas and her sister had to convince her to let Douglas leave Virginia and live with a host family in West Des Moines.
That she was the first black woman to accomplish what she has is a tremendous bonus. Her very actions and the grace in which she has accomplished it all will fuel the aspirations of all young people who follow in her prancing, airy, disciplined routines.