Black History Month Icon: Gabrielle Douglas
Gabby Douglas’ Olympic Aspirations watch more videos (1)
Gabrielle Douglas was born on December 31, 1995, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Gabby Douglas began formal gymnastics training at 6 years old and won a state championship by the time she was 8. She moved away from her hometown and family in 2010 to pursue training with a world-renowned Olympic trainer, and was selected to compete with the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team at the 2012 Summer Olympics. There,
“I just want people to know it took a lot. It took a lot of hard days in the gym and determination, passion and drive. Gold medals are made out of your sweat, blood and tears, and effort in the gym every day, and sacrificing a lot.”
“I thought about how I would impact younger girls. I want to let them know everything is possible if you put your mind to it.”
American gymnast Gabrielle Christina Victoria Douglas, better known as Gabby Douglas or “Flying Squirrel,” was born on December 31, 1995, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Timothy Douglas and Natalie Hawkins. Her first experience with gymnastics came at the age of 3, when she perfected a straight cartwheel using a technique that she learned from her older sister, Arielle, a former gymnast. By age 4, Douglas had taught herself how to do a one-handed cartwheel.
Thanks to Arielle’s persuasion tactics, Douglas’s mother allowed her to begin taking formal gymnastics classes at the age of 6. Only two years later, in 2004, she was named a Virginia State Gymanstics Champion.
When Douglas turned 14, she left her hometown and family, and moved to West Des Moines, Iowa, to train with renowned coach Liang Chow, known for molding American gymnast Shawn Johnson into a world champion and Olympic gold medalist. Travis and Missy Parton volunteered to be Douglas’s host family in West Des Moines: According to Douglas’s official website, she plays big sister to the Parton’s four daughters, one of whom is also a student of Chow’s.
At the 2010 Nastia Liukin SuperGirl Cup — a televised meet held in Massachusetts — Douglas made her debut on the national scene, placing fourth all-around. She also placed third on the balance beam, sixth on vault and ninth all-around in the junior division of her first elite meet, the 2010 CoverGirl classic in Chicago, Illinois. Douglas went on to win the silver medal on balance beam and fourth all-around at the 2010 U.S. Junior National Championships, and then took the uneven bars title at the 2010 Pan American Championships. Her performance at that event also placed Douglas at fifth all-around and won her a share of the U.S. team gold medal.
Douglas was a member of the U.S. team that won the gold medal in the team finals at the 2011 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Tokyo, Japan. She also won the 2012 Olympic Trials, which took place in San Jose, California, and was selected to the national team that will represent the United States at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England.
“Her unique blend of power, flexibility, body alignment and form has led her to be compared with three-time Olympian Dominique Dawes,” states an article on American-Gymnast.com. Douglas is the first African American to make the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team since Dawes in 2000. She aims to be the second African American woman to win an individual medal, according to a June 2012 Los Angeles Times article.