Olympic champion Gabby Douglas made history at just 16 years old as the first Black woman to become the individual all-around champion at the 2012 Olympic games and while her unforgettable victory hasn’t quite been enough to silence her critics, she’s still choosing to take the high road.
Gabby’s showing at this year’s Olympics weren’t quite what she’d hoped for and she fought back tears while responding to questions from reporters shortly after her individual event in Rio. Constantly criticized for everything from her performance to her hairstyles, to her facial expressions during fellow teammates’ routines, Gabby says she aimed to stay away from social media while competing during the Olympics but admits that some of the things she did catch wind of were negative and hurtful.
“When they talk about my hair or me not putting my hand up on my heart or me being very salty in the stands, they’re really criticizing me, and it doesn’t really feel good,” she said with tears in her eyes. “It was a little bit hurtful.”
Speaking specifically on her performance this time around, the 20-year-old gymnastics star says despite not coming out “on top” like she’d hoped, she’s still appreciative of the experience. “You always want to picture yourself being on top and doing those routines and being amazing,” Douglas said. “I pictured it differently, but that’s okay because I’m just going to take this experience as a really good, positive one.” Gabby also addressed speculation that she was soured by not being able to place as high as her teammates and had distanced herself from the group.
WANT MORE FROM ESSENCE? Subscribe to our daily newsletter for the latest in hair, beauty, style and celebrity news
“Everything I’ve gone through has been a lot this time around,” she said, “and I apologize if [I seemed] really mad in the stands. I wasn’t. I was supporting Aly. And I always will support them and respect them in everything they do. I never want anyone to take it as I was jealous or I wanted attention. Never. I support them, and I’m sorry that I wasn’t showing it.”
Overall, Gabby acknowledges that her experience during this year’s games has been a challenging one, but she refuses to let it change her positive outlook. “I’ve been through a lot,” she added. “I still love them. I still love the people who love me. Still love them who hate me. I’m just going to stand on that.”