Gabby Douglas on Making Olympic History
by Ilyssa Panitz
Gabby Douglas has been deemed America’s new “it” girl. The 16-year-old gymnastics champion has quickly become an overnight sensation thanks to her spectacular performance at the summer Olympics and that Hollywood smile that could light up London. Fresh off of her big win, DivineCaroline caught up with the mega star inside the P&G Family Home.
DC: What a way to make an entrance here in London?
GD: Yes it has been an amazing year. God has given me this awesome and great talent to show everyone and for that I am grateful too. A lot of glory goes to him and I know he has blessed me over the past years.
DC: When you learned you won the gold, what was your reaction?
GD: Oh so much was going through my mind. I remember finishing a strong routine on the floor and I was like, “Wait you are the Olympic champion!” I had to pause for a moment and get myself together. I knew my scores were consistent in keeping me on the top and I had a big lead. But right before I saw my name on the top of the score board, I was definitely nervous. My heart was beating so fast.
DC: Everyone is referring to you as America’s new sweetheart. What does this title mean to you?
GD: WOW! It means so much. I feel like history does repeat itself. For me to follow in someone else’s footsteps who has held the title before is so amazing. I am America’s new sweetheart, huh? I love it!
DC: Another nickname you have been given, the Flying Squirrel. What’s your take on that one?
GD: I love it. That is one that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I have also heard people refer to me as Gabbylicious, Gabbyulous or Golden Gabby. I like those too.
DC: Have you thought about where you are going to hang your medals?
GD: Up on the wall. It seems that would be the proper place to put them. I want to look at them every day and say, “WOW, I accomplished something so big.” I feel so honored.
DC: How do you stay so calm under the pressure of having billions of people watching you, your mom in the stands, your team mates counting on you, impressing the judges and ignoring the negative stories in the media?
GD: My coach Liang Chow has definitely shaped me up. Chow has really taught me how to focus more. He has done so much for me and getting me to this big moment. In addition to training in your sport, you have to train mentally too. When someone tries to distract you, you have to turn away and ignore it. You have to focus on the positive energy and not wasted energy like, “Oh she fell.” It is at that moment you have to turn away and remember your training. We practice pressure sets for this reason. We put the pressure on ourselves to go to London or another competition. We put the pressure on ourselves to say, we have done this before and now we have to do it again.
DC: What will you take away from this London experience?
GD: I will take away that I made Olympic history and that I am an Olympic champion. Overall I think my performance was very good and I had so much fun in London. The crowds, the arena and the American flag hanging over the arena were such an honor to be a part of.
DC: A down side to your intensive training is you have to live far away from your mom, whom you are so close with. Now that the Olympics are over can you move back home?
GD: Unfortunately no. While being apart from my mom is so difficult and I miss her every day, I do have to get back to Iowa and train.
DC: Aside from your medals, you are also the first African-American to win the gold in the all-around. What does it mean to be the first and pave the way for others to follow in your footsteps?
GD: It means so much. I am so honored that I can inspire all of these other girls to come to this sport. I am so glad that they can now think anything is possible. Nothing is impossible, trust me! I figured that out many times.
DC: Do you remember starting out and having Olympic dreams?
GD: Yes. I remember starting out and looking up to Dominique Dawes as my role model and I am so thankful that I had her to look up to.
DC: Who or what inspires you?
GD: When I come to the Olympics, I get inspired. Everywhere you look, every sport inspires a new generation. I want to inspire people and get them thinking, “If Gabby can do it than I can do it.”
DC: Tim Tebow has his ritual before every football game. What is Gabby’s?
GD: Yes. They now call me the Tim Tebow of gymnastics. I always quote scriptures to myself. I also tell my mom or my coach to send me scriptures to help me renew my faith and keep me going strong. If you see my lips moving on TV, that is me praying. I always pray before I compete.