Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas is so much more than her four-foot 11-inch frame. She is the first African American or the first of African descent of any nationality in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champions, and the first U.S. gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics. She and Simone Biles are the only two American all-around champions to win multiple gold medals in a single Olympic Games. Gabby Douglas is also the reigning AT&T American Cup all-around champion.
Some would be tired after the 100 crunches, but not Douglas. Her mother said Gabby was the only one of her four children that she couldn’t keep from doing flips off the furniture, and even then it took her four years to enroll this mini-Dominique Dawes in gymnastics classes.
But despite all of her achievements, the haters kept coming, even from her own people. In 2016, Douglas was no longer the team’s star. Teammate and friend, Simone Biles, who won the all-around gold this year, was in the top spot. But Douglas did help the team to the gold with her performance on the uneven bars. When the team took to the medal podium to receive their golds as the U.S. national anthem played, there were some upset by Douglas not putting her hand over her heart–right, just her hand over heart.
That small gesture, or lack thereof, was enough to turn some against the woman who had been a national sensation in 2012. There were columns written about it and all the social media posts directed at Douglas for such a thing many had no idea the reason, or lack there of. But she took the high road and even apologized for later.
“I tried to stay off the internet because there’s just so much negativity,” Douglas told reporters on Sunday. “Either it was about my hair or my hand not over my heart [on the medal podium] or I look depressed…. It was hurtful. It was hurtful. It was. It’s been kind of a lot to deal with.”
This is an athlete that’s twice competed for the United States in the Olympics and has helped the team win two gold medals, but her standing at attention on the podium rather than putting hand over heart is enough to incite anger. Douglas, like many, finds it hard to believe these criticisms exist because she does do this for her country.
But Douglas came back like a true champion and rose above the negativity with one post on social media.