How Gabby Douglas Stuck The Landing

Throughout all the trials and tribulations in life, Olympic Gymnast Gabby Douglas has always approached everything with a big smile and a vast determination. At the London Olympics in 2012, Douglas became the first African-American Olympian, as well as the first ever gymnast to win gold in both the all-around and individual competitions at the summer games. Douglas achieved these feats all at the young age of 16 and won the hearts all over the nation with her inspiring story.

Douglas was born and raised in a Virginia suburb by a single mother who raised her and her three siblings all by herself. Douglas’ talent for gymnastics had been evident when she was young as 3 years old when she could perform perfect cartwheels. Douglas started fully competing in gymnastics at age 7, and was an immediate standout winning several state competitions. While Douglas kept competing and thriving in the sport, the financial toll took an impact on her family. Her mother, Natalie Hawkins, had to receive food stamps for their family and declare bankruptcy but kept her daugher in the sport because she knew that gymnastics was her little girl’s dream. Throughout her time in gymnastics, Douglas was home schooled and practiced gymnastics 40 hours a week.

Never give up and always keep fighting, because though times may be tough, the sacrifices do pay off, so just keep pushing towards your dream and just love it at the same time and enjoy it.

When Douglas was 11, she watched gymnast Shawn Johnson win gold at the Beijing games and was inspired to achieve a similar greatness. She noticed that Johnson’s coach, Liang Chow, played an enormous role in her success at the games, and she had a strong desire to be coached by Chow as well. Chow’s gymnastic center is in Des Moines, Iowa, 1,200 miles away from her home in Virginia. Douglas’ mother was hesitant to let Gabby go, but she realized that in order for her daughter to fulfill her dreams of Olympic gold, she would have to relocate to Iowa. Gabby left home to train when she was 14 years old.

Hard days are the best because that's when champions are made.

Gabby stayed with an incredibly supportive host family, who treated her as one of her own, and continued to sharpen her skills. Throughout her time in Des Moines, Douglas felt homesick throughout. When her family came to visit over Christmas in 2011, Douglas told her mother that she wanted to quit gymnastics, move back home, and work at Chick-Fil-A. Despite desperately missing her daughter, her mother told Douglas that if she were to quit the sport, she needed to quit a champion. Douglas was irritated that her mom wouldn’t let her come home, and refused to speak to her for a short time, but in the back of her mind, she knew her mother knew best.

My message is to never quit, never give up. When you have a little trouble here and there, just keep fighting. In the end, it will pay off.

Gabby pressed on, and her dreams all began at the 2012 Visa Championships, where a year earlier she had fallen 5 times throughout all of her routines. While she did fall once, she had a strong enough performance to go to the Olympic trials, where she went on to be the only gymnast to earn a guaranteed spot on the team for the 2012 London Games. Everything Gabby had trained for was not for nothing, as her and her teammates, known as “The Fierce Five” went to London and won Olympic gold. Douglas, of course, won the individual all-around event as well.

Gold medals are made out of sweat, blood and tears and effort in the gym every day.

The reception to Douglas’ performance was astounding. She had a memoir published in November of 2013 entitled Grace, Gold & Glory, signed lucrative endorsements with several companies, and even had a TV movie inspired by her inspirational story. Her reality show, entitled Douglas Family Gold premiered this past May, it tracks her path to the Rio games this summer where she hopes to both repeat and build on her success. Douglas recently won gold at the American Cup championship, which proves she’s definitely poised to repeat. At a recent press conference, Douglas was asked why she wanted to come back:

I feel like I haven’t reached 100 percent in my abilities and I really want to do that.

In Rio, Gabby will have the eyes of the world on her once more. With her determination and unfathomable skills, something tells us she’s up to the task to bring home the gold again.

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