Gabby Douglas Wins Gold, Gives Glory to God

Sixteen-year-old Olympic gymnast Gabrielle Douglas says her faith helped her manage the pressures of competing on a world stage to win gold.

GIVING GLORY TO GOD FOR GOLD: Olympic gymnastics champion Gabrielle Douglas says her faith helps her manage the pressure of competing on a world stage. (Photo: Brian Peterson/ Newscom)

“Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me.” These are the first words 16-year-old gymnast Gabrielle Douglas tweeted after she won the all around gold medal at the London Olympics yesterday. On the stadium floor, Douglas also told a reporter that “the glory goes up to Him, and the blessings fall down on me.”

In a first-person ESPN article published after her win, she said she was “in some pain from a tweaked muscle” when she arrived in London and was “feeling a little down,” but her coach Liang Chow advised her to ignore the pain. “He got me refocused, and, of course, he was right. When I got to the competition and all the nerves kicked in, I didn’t feel a thing,” said Douglas.

Just months ago, Douglas’ coaches “didn’t believe that she had the mental tenacity to pull this off,” Jackie MacMullan said in an interview with ESPN, but Douglas told NBC News that she has been dealing with the pressure and gaining confidence by “meditating on scriptures.”

“Tonight, I didn’t think about avoiding mistakes — that’s what gets you into trouble,” Douglas wrote in her ESPN essay. “Instead, I just thought about going out there and representing Team USA, my coaches, my family and myself as best as I could. I just wanted to enjoy the moment.”

It took Douglas and her sisters two years to convince their mother that the then 14 year old should be allowed to move from their home in Virginia Beach to train with Chow in Iowa. In an inspirational video about what it takes to raise an Olympian, Douglas’ mother, Natalie Hawkins, said Douglas had been a child who would never leave her side, and during a 2011 family visit, Douglas was so homesick that she asked to come home. Her mother told her, “Life is not easy. You have to fight and just refuse to quit.” Now Hawkins says it was worth the sacrifices to see her daughter achieve her dream.

Douglas is the first African-American to win gold in the all-around competition, a fact that had former Olympian Dominique Dawes in tears as she reported on its significance for Fox Sports. Dawes was part of the 1996 “Magnificient Seven” gymnastics team that won the first U.S. women’s team gold. (This year’s “Fab Five” that included Douglas also took the team gold.) She said her tears were not only for Douglas and her family, but for the historical moment and what it would do to inspire young African Americans. Asked what advice she would give the young champion, Dawes said, “Keep God number one in your life. … Keep him first and foremost and only be guided by him.”

As Douglas manages what some are calling a meteoric rise to prominence, she’ll have to deal not only with accolades but with criticism. Already there has been criticism of the champion’s hair care. Ingrid Banks, Associate Professor of Black Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told Loop-21 that this criticism “has deep historical roots dating back to the late nineteenth century [when] black people equated ‘proper grooming’ standards as a weapon in the fight against segregation.” Banks says the focus on Douglas’ hair “illustrates, in a painful manner, how black people continue to hold on to outdated ideas that are no less problematic today as they were in the past.”

Never mind that, though. Gabby “woke up in London on Thursday morning to the beat of raindrops on the roof, and she knew it was going to be a great day,” Phil Taylor wrote at Sports Illustrated. “‘My mom always told me that rain was God’s manifestation of something really special about to happen,’ she said. She was right, because by the time Douglas, the pint-size, 16-year-old gymnast, closed her eyes and fell asleep Thursday night — if she ever did — she was the Olympic gold medalist in the all-around competition, which will only change the rest of her life.”

Congratulations, Gabby Douglas! You’ve done us all proud.

About the author, Christine A. Scheller

Christine A. Scheller is a widely published journalist and essayist, and an editor-at-large at UrbanFaith. She lives with her husband at the Jersey Shore and in Washington, DC, where she helps facilitate dialogue between scientific and religious communities.
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  3. Pinned this article. Hope brings you followers, so have much that is good to make people think more about what matters.. http://pinterest.com/pin/147141112796364307/

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  5. Beautiful, poignant article, Christine, we thank you! Peace & Blessings, Lynne

  6. Awesome. She has a nice spirit.

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  10. I am so PROUD of Gabby! What a awesome young lady she is. And her story is so precious and lifegiving. I hope the whole world learns how the deep love of 2 families gave her the strength and encouragement to win the GOLD! And for all of us who watched her we now have someone so dear to admire Gabby Douglas God Bless You Always!

  11. Love Gabby Douglas! So proud of her and admire this young lady in so many ways! God Bless you Gabby and thank you for sharing your lifegiving story with all of us! God is with you every step of the way and I am so thankful that the LOVE of 2 families gave you the support and encouragement allowing you to let your God given talent soar! Keep on keepin on!

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  14. Thank you for this insightful and encouraging piece!

    Blessings.

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  16. I am so proud of this young lady.She should be an inspiration to today’s youth.Glory to God! through out her journey.Never give up on yourself. I get tired of negativity about youth today and youth dying from violence it’s very encouraging.In conclusion I really enjoyed watching the Olympics as a whole. Gabby to me is an example of Truth.

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