Our first African American all-around gold medalist in women's gymnastics is also just a young girl with the same issues as many high school kids her age.
Gabrielle (who likes her formal name instead of "Gabby") sat down with Oprah recently and explained that although the more advertised reason for her switching gyms and moving to Iowa was the chance to be taught by famed coach Liang Chow, the racism and bullying she experienced at her hometown Virginia gym were largely why she moved.
Douglas's mom, Natalie Hawkins, told Oprah that Gabrielle even said she'd rather quit the sport than stay in Virginia.
Now her hometown gym, Excalibur in Virginia Beach, is lashing back, understandably embarrassed. "The accusations that are being made against the gymnasts and coaches are just sickening," Excalibur's Randy Stageburg told Gymnewstics.com in a statement. "Gabby was never a victim - in fact many would say she was one of the favorites. I never once heard her complain about girls being mean; funny how it is just now coming up."
But why would Gabrielle make up that some girls called her their "slave" among other hurtful things? With Oprah, Gabrielle recounted the humiliating details with her trademark grace and smile. There was no bitterness and certainly no victim's mentality.
Gabrielle's story should be a lesson for us all. She knew she deserved better treatment than she was receiving. This wasn't an athlete spending a few hours a week at a gym - she was there more than she was home. So without a lot of ruckus, a young girl
made some tough decisions on her own, like leaving her family to move over 1,000 miles away. She also didn't expect to change the mean girls and certainly didn't let their ignorant views rub off on her. Instead, Gabrielle independently shaped her future (which is a lot to say for a 16-year-old).
What's even sweeter is that her future, at least in the short term, has proven to be golden...times two.
Julie Samrick is a stay-at-home mom of 4 young kids and the founder of Kid Focused, a site devoted to children and family issues. Subscribe to the free Kid Focused newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox and connect with us on Facebook too. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.