Gabby Douglas Becomes First African American to Win Olympic Gold in Gymnastics All-Around

By Francesca Witcher

Yesterday, Gabby Douglas made gymnastics history becoming the first African American gymnast to win the coveted gold medal as an all-around gymnast and the first gymnast to win gold in both the team and all-around in the same Olympics. She is also only the second African American gymnast to make it on the U.S Women’s gymnastics team. Dominique Dawes, who was a part of the Magnificent 7 in 1996, was the first African American to make it on the U.S. Olympic team and to place in the all-around finals.

Winning gold in the all-around in gymnastics did not come without hard work, dedication, blood, sweat and tears. Douglas, just a year before Dawes made the 1996 Olympic team, was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Her older sister, Arielle Hawkins, six years older than Douglas, convinced their mother, Natalie Hawkins, to enroll her gymnastics.

When gabby was 14-years-old she had her heart set on going to the Olympics, but needed much more training to get to the next level. Gabby and her older sister had convinced their mom once again to send her to live in Des Moines, Iowa with a host family so that she could train with top coach Liang Chow, a former Chinese Olympian and former coach of Shawn Johnson, at his gym Chow’s Gymnastics and Dance Institute. Her mother has said in many interviews that it was not easy to allow Gabby to go live with a family she did not know. In addition, the financial burdens to keep her in gymnastics were not easy as Hawkins had to make financial decisions to keep her competing in the sport.  Watching her mother from the stands every time Gabby hit a perfect routine and to see her win now two Olympic gold medals, made it worth all of the scarifies.

This is a historical moment indeed for U.S. Women’s gymnastics. Douglas’s win will open even more doors for young African American gymnasts and will encourage more African Americans to have their children to participate in the sport. Douglas is now America’s new Olympic sweetheart and has become a role model for young African American girls around the world.

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