Gabby Douglas blazed a trail for USA women’s gymnastics. The 5’3” (1.60m)-tall Los Angeles resident was the first U.S. gymnast to win the all-around and team titles at the same Olympic Games and the first African-American to take home Olympic gymnastics gold – both feats that the storied Simone Biles has now replicated.
The signs were present early that Douglas was different. Aged just three she was scaling the doorframes all over her house and admiring the view. Within a week of being shown a cartwheel by her elder sister, Douglas was performing them one-armed, prompting her sibling to suggest she enrol in gymnastics.
By the time she was nine, Douglas knew she wanted to be an Olympic champion. Five years later she sacrificed her family life, moving from Virginia to Iowa to train with celebrated coach Liang Chow. It brought near-instant reward with Douglas crowned team world champion in 2011, when she was still only 16.
It was not all smooth, however. Before grabbing World Championship gold for the first time, an injured Douglas fell seven times during the televised 2011 USA National Championships. Her confidence beaten, it took a new coaching team and regime to persuade her she could do it all.
“Gold medals are made out of your sweat, blood and tears, and effort in the gym every day, and sacrificing a lot.””
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