Gabby Douglas has had to overcome huge challenges to become the athlete she is today. You might remember her as the it-girl of the London Olympics in 2012, winning a gold medal in the individual all-around competition in women’s gymnastics. She was the first African American to do so and she’s showing no signs of slowing down. She recently shared in the US team’s gold medal at the 2015 World Gymnastics Championships, becoming the first Olympic all-around champion since 1981 to return to the sport and win a world championships medal. Given the typically short career span for gymnasts, this is truly an incredible feat. Go Gabby Go!
Here are 10 things you don’t know about Gabby Douglas:
Her family calls her Brie, a nickname for her full name Gabrielle.
On starting gymnastics:
Her oldest sister, Arielle, taught her how to do a two-handed cartwheel when she was 3 years old. A year later Gabby taught herself how to do a one-handed version.
When she was eight, Gabby trained in Virginia Beach. Her mother started working nights so she could homeschool Gabby during the day since her training schedule made regular school impossible.
When she was 14 years old, Gabby felt that training with gymnastics coach Liang Chow was her best shot at making the Olympics. But it required she move to Iowa, leaving her mother and siblings behind. She went to live with a host family and was incredibly lonely. In October 2011, Gabby went to Tokyo to compete in the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. All the mothers of the US gymnasts were there except Gabby’s. She called her mom crying, saying “I’m all alone. I’m so alone.” But Gabby persevered. When she returned to Iowa it was determined her family was too great an emotional distraction so Gabby didn’t speak to them for eight months leading up to the Olympics.
On her father:
Gabby’s dad was absent for her whole life but reappeared as his daughter was becoming an Olympian. Gabby says she felt he was trying to gain a piece of her “fame and fortune” and says she remembers thinking, “We know what you’re trying to pull. It’s too late to hop on the bus.”
On racism in gymnastics:
Gabby says some other gymnasts teased her about her appearance and one of the coaches at her first gym went so far as to tell her to get reconstructive nose surgery. But Gabby never let the haters get her down and went on to achieve her dream of winning a gold medal in the Olympics.
On her makeup habits:
She probably sweats most of it off during intense sessions at the gym, but Gabby says she always wears Mac lipgloss.
On her commitment:
In 10 years of getting ready for the Olympics, Gabby trained somewhere around 18,000 hours. That’s more than two solid year’s worth of gym time.
On her dream car:
After the Olympics, Gabby got a lot of attention. Hundreds of companies wanted to endorse her, meaning she will earn as much as 10 million dollars over the next four years. The first thing she said she wants to buy? “An Acura NSX.” Even though she could buy the $184,000 car in cash, she couldn’t drive it since she all of her training hasn’t left her with enough time to get a driver’s license!
On her celebrity crush:
Ian Somerhalder from the Vampire Diaries.