Gabby Douglas is a lot more relatable than you think
Often, it’s far easier to see someone’s star power from the outside. When then 16-year-old Gabby Douglas became the first African American all-around champion in an event at the 2012 Olympics, the world watched with equal parts awe and recognition. Unbeknownst to us, the teen athlete was just as shocked by her newfound power as we were.
While millions watched the Olympic gymnast Douglas perform acrobatic wonders from the comfort of their couch, her mother and sister saw years of encouragement come to fruition.
In a newly-released interview with TIME Firsts, Douglas shared how she started doing gymnastics in the first place, and the failure that pushed her to become a world champion.
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In a sweet revelation, Douglas explained that her older sister is the reason she started doing gymnastics in the first place. Her bond with her sister and mother was, and is, the glue that keeps her going.
"My older sister Ariel got me involved, I saw that she was doing these gymnastics shows and I wanted to join. She saw that I had a lot of potential and got my mom to put me in. I have learned from my mom and my sisters to always fight and never give up, no matter what the odds look like, keep going."
While the larger public knows Douglas as a record-winning champ, she told TIME it was during times of failure and embarrassment that drove her greatness.
"In 2011, I had strained my hand and my hip flexor. When I went on to the competition floor I fell seven times. It was so embarrassing and my mom told me, "that's a winner, when you fall and get back up and you cope." My coaches were like, "we're going to go back to the gym and we're going to get it." It was that drive, it was, "I'm not going to be embarrassed again, I have a talent and I'm going to use it."
"I never thought that I would be a trail-blazer. My mom always said, "inspire a generation." And then when that happened we were like, "Whoa, we never knew that we actually could.'"
Currently, Douglas has taken a year off gymnastics and is keeping busy with a variety of new pursuits, including taking acting classes. Regardless of whether she returns to the gym, or retires permanently, it’s clear the Douglas has the work ethic to succeed in whatever she decides to do.
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