At just 16 years old, Gabby Douglas is the first African-American since Dominique Dawes to represent Team USA on the Olympic gymnastics team. However, it was not an easy journey for Douglas or her mom, Natalie Hawkins.

As part of a special series paying tribute to mothers of Olympians, Hawkins tells the story of letting her teenage daughter move from their hometown in Virginia to West Des Moines, Iowa, two years before the Olympic trials to train. She said letting go of Gabby was one of the hardest things she’s ever done. “It’s now one of the most rewarding things that I’ve ever got to experience in my life,” she says. “There’s no greater joy than for a parent to see their child reach their dream.” 

Check out the Raising an Olympian video above to hear all about Gabby Douglas’ journey to the Olympic stage.  

Click here for complete Summer 2012 Olympic coverage.  

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