Gabby’s history-making Olympic performance in London almost didn’t happen! The teenage gymnast tells Oprah who gave her the courage and confidence to compete.
Gabrielle Douglas took home two gold medals in London at the 2012 Olympic Games. One she shared with her four other teammates as part of the “Fierce Five.” The other she made history with, becoming the first African-American to win the women’s gymnastics all-around. But in her interview with Oprah on Oprah’s Next Chapter that aired Aug. 26, Gabby revealed she almost cut short her journey to Olympic stardom.
“If you decide to go home, you’re not coming back,” her host father Travis Parton told her six months ago, when Gabrielle questioned leaving her training in Iowa to return home to Virginia.
She heeded his words and stayed to continue her training with coach Liang Chow, who famously ushered gymnast Shawn Johnson to Olympic success in Beijing in 2008. And even with two gold medals already under her belt, Coach Chow stills sees potential in the 16-year-old gymnast.
“I think she can do it,” Chow told Oprah about Gabrielle’s chances at the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.
Homesickness wasn’t all Gabrielle struggled with in her quest to become an Olympian. A primary reason for her departure from Virginia to Iowa to train, was the mistreatment she received from her teammates and coaches at her gym at home.
“I was getting racist jokes. I was being isolated from the group. I’d come home at night and cry my eyes out because ‘What did I do to deserve this?'” Gabrielle confessed to Oprah. She shared one of the ugliest jokes made to her face.
“One of my teammates was like, ‘Can you scrape the bar?’ and they were like, ‘Well why doesn’t Gabby do it? She’s our slave,” she recounted.
Her next challenge was to convince her mother, Natalie, to let her daughter move nearly 2000 miles away from home to train.
“I wanted to pursue this dream. So I had to convince her,” Gabrielle said.
And when Gabrielle stood on that top tier of the Olympic podium with a gold medal around her neck, Natalie knew the sacrifice was worth it.
“It was all of the hard work, all of the sacrifice, and then I thought ‘Oh my gosh she did it,’” Natalie told Oprah about her thoughts the moment her daughter won gold.
So Gabrielle, which she insists on being called because she likes “the beauty of Gabrielle,” had her mother, her coach and her two host parents, Travis and Missy, cheering her on the sidelines. One man though remained absent from Gabrielle’s triumphs — her father, Thomas.
“I don’t think it would be the best,” she said of contacting her father, who she has not spoken to at all since her success in London. Her mother is currently in the process of getting a divorce from him.
But the tough love she received from host father Travis is exactly what Gabrielle needed, according to her mother.
“She needed that father figure,” Natalie said, and that’s exactly what Travis promised when he agreed to have Gabrielle come live in his home.
“As long as she’s in my house, she will be treated like one of my daughter.”
And what about all those nay-sayers (“hay-ters” as Oprah called them) who focused more on Gabrielle’s hair rather than the great accomplishments she achieved. At first, she had no idea what all the controversy was even about.
“I searched it, just to see what they were talking about. I put Gabby Douglas and then it first says ‘Gabby Douglas hair’ like the first one on Google,” she said.
Gabrielle admit it hurt, especially coming from other African-American women, but she refused to focus on the negative.
First Look: Olympic Gold Medalist Gabrielle Douglas on Oprah’s Next Chapter
Olympic gymnast Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas won gold and the hearts of millions. Now, Oprah travels to West Des Moines, Iowa, to sit down with this 16-year-old gold medalist. Plus, Oprah meets Gabby’s mother, Natalie; her three siblings; her coach, Liang Chow; and visits with her host family.
How about you Hollywoodlifers? Are you happy Gabrielle stuck with her training to go to the Olympics? Did you find the whole hair controversy ridiculous? Tell us about it below!
— Emily Morgan
More Gabrielle Douglas News:
- Gabby Douglas’s Parents Battle Over $100 Million Endorsements
- Gabby Douglas Reveals Her ‘Vampire Diaries’ Crush
- Leave Gabby Douglas’ Hair Alone! She Won Gold: Enough Said