By Caleigh Carlson
Gabby Douglas, an American artistic gymnast, 2012 Olympic all-around champion and 2015 World all-around silver medalist, humbly shared her experiences and career successes with the College on March 12 in the Brower Student Center Room 100.
The accomplished 23-year-old gymnast faced an eager audience as she shared, without hesitation, her proudest accomplishment –– all the times she had failed.
“Winning is definitely a bonus,” Douglas said in response to a rather taken-aback audience. “But even my mom said (about a competition 2011) that that was one of her favorite competitions because I fell several times on national TV and kept getting back up, fighting and fighting. I think those are the best moments — when you fall and get back up and keep pushing.”
Douglas’ words encapsulated the two apparent elements of her character — her humility and love for her family. She was inspired to become a gymnast by her older sister, who had already developed the hobby.
“My older sister was a gymnast before I was,” Douglas said. “She did gymnastics and when I was younger, I was like, ‘I want to do what you’re doing.’”
However, her mother was not quite so eager to send Douglas down the same path as her sister, who had already injured her wrist twice in the intense sport.
“It took her about four years to finally put me in, but then I fell in love the first day of gymnastics,” Douglas said.
It was the hesitant approval from her mother that led Douglas to become the first African-American in Olympic history to win gold in both the gymnastic individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympic games, accomplishing such greatness in the London games of 2012.
When asked further about her family’s role in her career, Douglas beamed with enthusiasm over their support.
“They were so amazing throughout the whole journey,” she said. “They were there with me until the end and I love them so much. There was never any jealousy, never any envy. All day long, they supported me and poured so much into my career. At the end of the day, I can say I’m so grateful to have a family like them.”
As with any career, Douglas said that she faced some challenges, especially while living as an African-American female playing such a competitive sport in the public eye.
“For so long, people were telling me that I couldn’t do it, it was way too much, and I would never make it,” Douglas said. “Unfortunately, I listened to those haters and doubters and actually wanted to quit gymnastics before the Olympics.”
Now that she has learned her lesson and proven those haters wrong, she encouraged the audience to block negative comments out and push forward to one’s goals.
“Never let anyone determine your talent and your success,” she said. “At the end of the day, you know what you can do, so just go out there and do it. Don’t listen to the negative comments and the haters — if you know you can do it, then go for it.”
After the audience broke into applause, the interviewer, junior finance major Martins Osasuwen, who serves as an associate member of the College Union Board, fittingly stated, “to family.”
“Yes,” Douglas said smiling. “To family.”