Alright, I will admit it. It didn’t take me long to become an enthusiastic fan. After all her name is Gabrielle, Gabby for short, just like my 16 month old granddaughter. Her amazing talent was on full display throughout the Olympics, and she gave the Black community throughout the world new reasons to cheer about victories in the tightest of circumstances.
Gabrielle Christina Victoria Douglas is our newest American “shero.” At the young age of 16, she has shattered the elite club and entered the world of Gold. Gold Medalist for Women’s Team Final in gymnastics. And Gabby made history as the first Black woman to win GOLD in the tougher than tough Women’s Individual All-Around Final.
One of my church members emailed the victory announcement when Gabby won the individual Gold, and we were jubilant with the shockingly surprising news. Aly Raisman was the favored athlete to take Gold in that exercise. Aly was also a native of Needham, Massachusetts, and our local media was all over the story. But in a twist of fate, and scoring measured to the fraction of a second, it was Gabby’s amazing performances that pushed her past her teammate. She outperformed the Russians, the Chinese, the British, the Italians, The Japanese, and the great Romanians.
An amazing victory for a young Black girl making her first trip to the Olympics. I absolutely refuse to get caught up in the nonsense about her hair or the color of her outfits. Those social media conversations are driven by “haters” whose personal performance would be laughed straight out of London. If we get bogged down at that level of stupidity, we’ll missed the meaning of Gabby’s Gold Medal performances.
Yes, she didn’t medal on the Women’s Beam Final. And I salute Aly Raisman for winning Gold on the Women’s Floor Exercises. It’s just the sweet victory of winning the coveted Individual All-Around Final that makes Gabby’s profile shine so brightly.
I remember past games dominated by Romanian divas and other Eastern European gymnastic queens. They were brilliant in their grace and agility. When Mary Lou Retton won Gold in 1984, she shattered the stranglehold on the sport and foreshadowed Gold victories of US athletes Carly Patterson (2004) Nastia Liukin (2008) and now Gabby Douglas.
Winning Gold, Silver or Bronze can be fleeting, and media attention can be short lived. At 16 Gabby will undoubtedly mature and perfect her routines in the next eight years. I fully expect her to compete in in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil and the 2020 Olympics (city yet to be named). My prayer is that Gabrielle Christina Victoria Douglas will become a household name throughout the world. I want her sleeper victory to empower young girls around the world to never stop believing in themselves. May Gabby Douglas become the new role model of grace under fire, brilliance in victory and perseverance when the critics have written you off the predetermined list of elite winners.
I salute Gabby Douglas and wish her only the best as a role model for us all.
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Carole Copeland Thomas is a 27 year speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in global diversity, empowerment, multiculturalism and leadership issues.