The first woman of color to win an Olympic Gold Medal in Gymnastics
You have to believe that you are good enough and not give up. Back in 2011 I fell seven times in the competition and it was so embarrassing. My mom said that a winner is the one who falls and gets back up again.
Throughout my career, a lot of people have doubted me. When someone tells you that you can’t do it, especially when there are multiple people, you start to believe it, and you don’t believe in yourself. It took me about 10 years to figure out how great I was at gymnastics. You have to believe that you’re good enough.
In 2011, I strained my hamstring and my hip flexor, though in training I had still been doing well. But when I went out onto the competition floor, I fell seven times. It was the national championships, and I was on TV. Seven times?! It was so embarrassing. My mom told me, “That’s what a winner is—when you fall and you get right back up and you don’t quit.” But I said, “I don’t think I want to try until next year.” My coaches were like, “Just try out for the world championships,” and I was like, “I don’t think I’m going to try.” It’s awful—the worst thing ever—when you’re so talented and you believe that you can do something, but fear holds you back. It’s torment.
But I went to the world championships and I got a team gold, and it was a great experience. The coach I was working with at the time told me, “All right, when we get back to the gym, we’re going to get it.” He made me sweat, and I love it, I love hard work—it means I’m accomplishing something.
Then 2012 came around, and I got invited to do the American Cup. I was a different person, a different gymnast. Everyone was just like, “Dang! Who is this girl?”
It was that drive, it was “I’m not going to be embarrassed again. I have a talent and I’m going to use it.”
It’s important to have strong female individuals to look up to—because everyone struggles. I love Serena Williams. People can say mean things to her, and she literally is just like, Nah, I’m still going to do whatever it is. You don’t get to tell me. She plays with the criticism. It’s awesome, and I want to start doing that. People can be so negative and so mean, but you just make it fun, and bring them back to love.
And I have learned from my mom and my sisters to always fight, always, and to never give up, no matter what the odds look like. My mom has sacrificed her whole life for me to achieve mine, and I’m so grateful for that. Sometimes parents try to live a dream through their kids, but it has to be the kid’s choice, and the kid’s passion.
My mom always used to say, “Inspire a generation.” It’s one thing when you say it, but I never thought that I would be a trailblazer and that people would draw inspiration from my story. When that happened, we were like, “Whoa!” To be a role model to these young girls … I love it. It’s like I’m a big sister.
Douglas won three gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games and helped Team USA win gold at the 2011 and 2015 world championships.
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