On Tuesday, Nov. 5, three-time World Championship medalist and three-time Olympic Gold Medalist gymnast Gabby Douglas came to speak at UNC Charlotte.
Douglas first stepped into the spotlight in 2012 when she made her first Olympic appearance. In summer 2012, she became the first African-American in Olympic history to win the individual all-around.
Douglas continued to train and compete internationally until the 2016 Olympic trials, where she finished seventh due to two falls from the balance beam. However, she earned a spot on the 2016 Olympic team.
The talk at UNC Charlotte began with two interviewers and Gabby Douglas on stage. The interviewers took turns asking Douglas questions about her journey to success, her family life and some other facts about her.
“I didn’t know I was always destined to be an Olympic gold medalist, but I did know I definitely wanted to go to the Olympics one day,” Douglas told the interviewers. “It was a long journey to get where I am as gymnastics is a long and difficult process, but ever since my first day in the gym I absolutely loved it.”
Douglas added that as her training became more intense, she found herself in the gym six days a week and training a total of 36 hours each week -- practically a full time job.
While spending so much time in the gym helped Douglas accomplish great things athletically, it also caused her to miss out on many things that most children and young teenagers enjoy.
“I always used to think ‘Why can’t I be normal?’" Douglas shared. “I wanted to be in school and go to the prom and all that, but my mom taught me about perspective and reminded me that not everyone gets to compete for the USA or have the potential to do something amazing. It paid off in the end and I guess I got to do prom on a larger scale with red carpets and meeting celebrities,” Douglas said.
After around 30 minutes, they opened up discussion to the audience allowing audience members to come forward to the microphone and ask their own questions to Douglas.
Many of the audience questions consisted of overcoming mental blocks and how to stay consistent with gymnastics for so long and not give up as well as finding a solid group of friends while being famous.
“I feel like people show their true colors right away or soon after you get to know them,” Douglas said. “You’ll definitely see it. I’m thankful that my family has always been there for me through everything and that I will always have them and their support.”
One of the more difficult questions Douglas was asked was if she could go back and do anything differently what it would be.
“I would redo the last Olympics,” Douglas said, causing a gasp amongst the audience. “I know there were so many factors into what happened at the Olympics, but I just feel like I didn’t do my part fully. When you reach the highest level, sometimes you get stagnant which I did. I put off a lot of things and procrastinated and didn’t put in as much effort as I did in 2012 and that’s something I regret.”
Nonetheless, Douglas has had an incredible and successful journey thus far. She has been a prominent role model for many young girls as well as a prominent member in the black community. On July 11, 2016, the day after Douglas was named to the Olympic team, she debuted her new Barbie Shero doll. A young audience member brought this Barbie doll with her to the event and asked Douglas to sign the box.
The interviewers ended their part of the talk by asking Douglas what quote she lives by.
“I love the one, ‘Don’t limit yourself because of others' limited imagination,’” Douglas said. “It’s true if you think about how many people have limited themselves because of someone else’s opinion. Make sure you follow your gut and find your destiny.”