So now that the Olympics are over, and we’ve all had a moment to catch our breath so to speak on all that happened, I want to talk about Gabby Douglas a bit. Having taken gymnastics for 5 summers I can tell you it’s a very segregated sport (I was usually 1-of-2 or 1-of-3 brown girls in the entire camp), so when they announced Gabby’s name during the Olympic trials I was both elated and proud to see her there. She got to the Olympics and quickly became the new ‘American Sweetheart’, both making history and inspiring kids of the next generation to follow their own dreams.
Even though I did gymnastics for a while I’m far from an expert so I won’t make any technical comments but I will say she is the happiest gymnast I’ve ever seen. Watching her perform, especially during the floor and beam events, she looked like there was no place she’d rather be, which makes sense as she’s previously told the NYTimes “I’m ready to shine”. I want to thank Gabby for not only inspiring girls of color all over the world, but for inspiring me too! Every performance I watched of hers made me wish I never quit gymnastics, and I’m proud of her for ‘sticking’ with it (sorry couldn’t resist the pun there!).
Now I don’t want to rant but…let me give you my two cents on a few things!
One cent: I have to say I’m both saddened by my community’s necessity to judge each other and proud of Gabby and how she handled the unprovoked criticism. Gymnastics has some of strictest rules of any sport, and yes stray hairs is something a gymnast can lose points for…hence all the hair clips, that if anyone noticed 98% of all the competing gymnasts had in their hair. I think her responses to the hair comments were very mature and I’m glad they didn’t affect her focus. And speaking of hair Dominique Dawes, who reported on the gymnastics competitions throughout the games, is newly natural! She talked about her personal hair journey with natural hair blogger CurlyNikki.com, as well as her thoughts on Gabby Douglas.
Two Cents: While I understand why people would take offense to her being referred to as an animal, I think it’s time we stop reading into things so much. First of all, she was given the name because she small (4’11”), quick, agile and gets incredibly high on the uneven bars…not because she’s brown. Secondly, she likes the nickname! She told USA Today “I like to become the Flying Squirrel…I like squirrels. They’re so adventurous.” So just as quickly/easily as the collective U.S. team changed the name ‘Fab Five’ to the ‘Fierce Five’ (because they didn’t like it), she would’ve denounced the Flying Squirrel moniker if she had a problem with it.
Congrats to Gabby Douglas and the entire US Gymnastics Team, can’t wait to see her at the Rio Olympics in 2016! I leave you all with this gif, which I didn’t make but makes me giggle a little every time I look at it!