Gabrielle Douglas is the first Black girl since Dominique Dawes in 2000 to join the women’s U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team and she hopes to be the second to win an individual medal after Dawes won a floor exercise bronze in 1996.
Not only is Douglas is the rare Black girl to make the U.S. Gymnastics team, at only 16-years-old, she qualified for the only automatic spot on the team when she took first place in the all-around at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, beating Jordyn Wieber by .100 of a point.
Douglas is strong on the uneven bars, which most people consider the U.S.’s weakest event. But, not only is she expected to medal on the uneven bars, she is expected to do well in the floor exercises and is considered the leader of this U.S. team that experts are predicting will be the first since 1996 to win a team gold medal.
How do we know she is the leader? Well, for one, Sports Illustrated put the entire gymnastics team on their cover with Gabrielle in the center on the balance beam, flanked by teammates Wieber and Aly Raisman, with Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney standing beneath them, all in red leotards. This is the first time the magazine has put a gymnast on their cover since Kerri Strug in December of 1996.
Gabrielle has several nicknames including ‘Gabby,’ ‘Brie,’ ‘Dougie’ and ‘the Flying Squirrel.’ She also has personality for days, but you would have to earn all of those nicknames. Her enthusiasm jumps off of the TV screen in interviews and she has even taught her fans how to Dougie.
The young Olympian is from Virginia Beach, Virginia, an area right by Hampton, which we know is a hotbed for athletic talent as it is the home of Allen Iverson and Michael Vick. She started tumbling at three and officially training at six. She kept rising and eventually was good enough to get noticed by Liang Chow who had coached former Olympian, Shawn Johnson.
In 2008, she moved (with her mother’s blessing) from her home in Virginia to West Des Moines, Iowa, where she lived with a host family while she trained with Chow, a former Olympian himself and the owner of Chow’s Gymnastics and Dance. Chow coached Gabby along and brought her talents to the next level. Although she has only been competing professionally for two years, she has already has won six gold medals, one silver and two bronze from various international championships.
Letting Douglas go so far away was hard for her mother, Natalie Hawkins, but in the end, it’s all paying off. “I could never have imagined this scenario,” Hawkins said in an interview.
“I knew the talent was there because everybody, anybody who came in contact with me, coaches, other gym parents, always told me how talented she was. So I knew that. And I knew if she had the right pieces of the puzzle that she would have the potential. But all of this? No, I never saw that.”
It seems as though Gabby saw it, though. After making the Olympic team she shouted out, “Wow, I finally made it! I believed in myself and I proved that I could do it!
“When it was over, I just said, ‘Yes! I’m going to London!’”