Gabby Douglas, the two-time gold medalist at the London 2012 Olympic Games, sat with talk show queen Oprah Winfrey to talk about the her life accomplishments with Team USA's "Fab Five."
And, according to the NYDN, the “Flying Squirrel’s” toughest challenges didn’t come from the discipline itself, but from the mental stress produced by her teammates' racial bullying -- when she was a very young girl.
"I felt I was being bullied and isolated from the group and they treated me not how they would treat their other teammates," Douglas told Winfrey. "I definitely felt isolated. I felt like, why am I deserving this?”
The 16-year-old Olympic champion, who made history by becoming the first African American to win gold in the individual gymnastics competition, couldn’t help but wonder, "Is it because I'm black? Like, those thoughts would go through my mind."
Douglas, who faced criticism because of her hair during the games, and even was bullied with an ill-placed NBC’s Animal Practice advertising that featured a chimpanzee doing gymnastics, right after a segment in which Bob Costas referred to Douglas’ accomplishment as "an example to all African American girls," told Oprah that some of her teammates at her native Virginia Beach gym would sometimes use racial slurs against her.
"One of my teammates was like, 'Could you scrape the bar?'" she recalled. "And they were like, 'Why doesn't Gabby do it, she's our slave?'"
Douglas' mom, Natalie Hawkins, also sat during the interview and confirmed to Oprah that her daughter had brought up the bullying before. "There were some things that were going on that she was sharing with me and some things that she wasn't because she knew how I would react," Hawkins told the talk show host.
Hawkins, however, confessed, she knew her daughter had reached a "breaking point" when, at age 14, she said, "I'd rather quit. If I can't move and train and get another coach, I'd rather quit the sport."
We are glad you didn't Gabby. Thank you for demonstrating that focus and perseverance go a long way towards showing hateful and ignorant people who are the true champions.