The remarkable poise and ability of Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas captured the hearts of America during the London Olympics, but she told Oprah Winfrey that she endured racism and bullying at the gym where she trained in Virginia Beach.
In fact, the treatment was so nasty that she considered giving up the sport—until she was allowed to escape to Iowa, where she flourished under a new coach at a new gym.
“One of my teammates was like, ‘Can you scrape the bar? And they were like, ‘Why doesn’t Gabby do it, she’s our slave?'” Douglas said during her nationally televised interview last night on “Oprah’s Next Chapter.” “I definitely felt isolated, I felt why am I deserving this? Is it because I’m black? Those thoughts would go through my mind.”
Gabby’s mother, Natalie Hawkins, revealed to Oprah that when Gabby was 14, she told her mother that if she couldn’t move away from the bullying and get a new coach, she’d rather quit the sport.
“I felt like I was bullied and isolated from the group, and they treated me not how they would treat the other teammates,” Gabby said to Oprah.
As we’ve pointed out before, as Gabby reveals the nastiness that she endured in Virginia, we can’t help but note that her old coaches in Virginia Beach have been complaining about how they should be getting more credit for her development.
At the London Olympics, Douglas became the first African-American gymnast to win the individual, and the first American to take both individual and team at the same Olympics.
Last week Gabby was in New York to throw out the first pitch at the New York Mets game. She spoke to children at a charity before the game.
“I wanted to tell my story and where I came from and my background, because it was not easy,” Douglas said, according to the New York Daily News. “I had to face a lot coming through this journey, a lot of sacrifices, difficulties, challenges, and injuries.
“I wanted everyone to know it’s still possible for anyone really. I wanted to make them know to never give up and always keep fighting, because though times may be tough, the sacrifices do pay off, so just keep pushing towards your dream and just love it at the same time and enjoy it.”