DAY # 31: GABRIELLE “GABBY” DOUGLAS, GYMNAST, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST, FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN TO WIN GOLD IN THE INDIVIDUAL ALL-AROUND EVENT
Lived: December 31, 1995
Trait to Admire: RISK TAKER
BIO & LEGACY:
American gymnast Gabrielle Christina Victoria Douglas, better known as Gabby Douglas or “Flying Squirrel,” was born on December 31, 1995, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Timothy Douglas and Natalie Hawkins. Her first experience with gymnastics came at the age of 3, when she perfected a straight cartwheel using a technique that she learned from her older sister, Arielle, a former gymnast. By age 4, Douglas had taught herself how to do a one-handed cartwheel.
When Douglas turned 14, she left her hometown and family, and moved to West Des Moines, Iowa, to train with renowned coach Liang Chow. Travis and Missy Parton volunteered to be Douglas’s host family in West Des Moines: According to Douglas’s official website, she plays big sister to the Parton’s four daughters, one of whom is also a student of Chow’s.
At the 2010 Nastia Liukin SuperGirl Cup, Douglas made her debut on the national scene, placing fourth all-around. She also placed third on the balance beam, sixth on vault and ninth all-around in the junior division of her first elite meet, the 2010 CoverGirl classic in Chicago, Illinois. Douglas went on to win the silver medal on balance beam and fourth all-around at the 2010 U.S. Junior National Championships, and then took the uneven bars title at the 2010 Pan American Championships. Her performance at that event also placed Douglas at fifth all-around and won her a share of the U.S. team gold medal.
Douglas was a member of the U.S. team that won the gold medal in the team finals at the 2011 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Tokyo, Japan. She also won the 2012 Olympic Trials, which took place in San Jose, California, and was selected to the national team that will represent the United States at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England.
“Her unique blend of power, flexibility, body alignment and form has led her to be compared with three-time Olympian Dominique Dawes,” states an article on American-Gymnast.com. Douglas is the first African American to make the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team since Dawes in 2000. She aims to be the second African American woman to win an individual medal, according to a June 2012 Los Angeles Times article.
By 2012, 16-year-old Douglas had proven herself a champion, going from underdog to Olympian in a short time. She became the subject of significant media attention in the summer of 2012: She was featured on the cover of Sports Illustratedin early July of 2012, along with the rest of the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team, and on one of five covers released byTIME Magazinethat same month.
At the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, Douglas and other members of the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team—Kyla Ross , McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber—took home a team gold medal. Fans worldwide watched as judges announced the team’s medal win—the first gold medal for the American women’s gymnastics team since 1996.
Douglas went on to compete in the individual all-around event, and became the first African American to win gold in the prestigious event. Following her two golds, she competed in the individual uneven bars and individual beam events, but failed to medal in either, placing eight and seventh, respectively.
Ritual Of Remembrance
1. Encouraged by her single mother, Gabby moved to Iowa in order to train to eventually become a record breaking Olympic Gymnast. She RISKED leaving her family for two years to pursue her passion. What long term sacrifices are you willing to make/RISK in order to pursue your passion?
2. Listen to the story of Natalie Hawkins, Gabby’s single mother of 4, speak about her experience “RAISING AN OLYMPIAN”. Reflect on how important Ms. Hawkins role in supporting Gabby in becoming an Olympic Champion. Reflect on the community’s role in contributing to Gabby’s accomplishments.
3. Thank your mother, father, guardian, teacher, coach, mentor for positively contributing to you. PAY IT FORWARD and powerfully contribute to the life of a child today.