LOS ANGELES, August 4, 2012 — “The Flying Squirrel,” Gabby Douglas, made history this week. Gabby became the first African American and only the fourth American woman to win all-around gymnastics gold at the Olympics. The three-peat is complete! Gabby Douglas becomes the third straight American to win the Olympic all-around gold medal!
The first African American woman to win Olympic gymnastics gold was Dominique Dawes, who was on the 1996 American gold-medal team in Atlanta. Dawes also took bronze in the floor exercise. She expressed her joy at having to change her website banner on Twitter: “My web guy’s words ‘changed the banner on your website from ‘only African American gymnast…’ to read ‘the first African American gymnast…’’”
Dawes underscored the importance of Gabby’s gold when she told interviewers, “That’s what’s so touching … As I was able to help Gabby, now she’s going to help a whole other generation of young girls and boys, African Americans, Hispanics, other minorities to see the sport of gymnastics as an opportunity for them to excel.”
Congratulations to Gabby, and also to Aly Raisman, who finished tied for third but just missed out on a medal due to the tiebreaker (and whose parents were an Olympic delight).
Many of us sat on the edge of our seats and watched Gabby move like a gazelle, or better yet, a flying squirrel. We were in awe as we watched history being made. Gabby was brilliant in every way. We were touched by her smile, her beauty, her intelligence and maturity, and also by her mother and family cheering her on. They all worked hard to make this possible. The sacrifices made by her family to help her reach the pinnacle of achievement and near-perfection are unimaginable to most of us.
But the result was, as Walter Maciel said on facebook, “Flawless!”
Here are Gabby’s and Aly’s scores:
Vault: Douglas-15.966, Raisman-15.9; Uneven bars: Douglas-15.733, Raisman-14.333; Beam: Douglas-15.5, Raisman-14.2; Floor: Douglas-15.033, Raisman-15.133.
The final standings were:
1. Douglas (USA) - 62.232 2. Komova (RUS) - 61.973 3. Mustafina (RUS) - 59.566 4. Raisman (USA) - 59.566
You have to love Gabby’s responses to reporters after her victory. One of the most widely quoted was her statement of faith: “It is everything I thought it would be; being the Olympic champion, it definitely is an amazing feeling. And I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to him and the blessings fall down on me.”
But she isn’t blind to her own role in winning that gold medal, reminding others who might be inspired by her that “Gold medals are made out of your sweat, blood, and tears.”
African Americans can smile a little brighter today knowing that we are still breaking barriers of traditional mindset. After the Civil Rights battles fought by our parents and grandparents, the world can be ours if only we give our “sweat, blood, and tears,” and if only we’ll believe. If only we stop looking down and start looking up, the world will be stunned by the results in life that we can achieve.
The 16-year-old “Flying Squirrel” isn’t just a cereal-box hero. She is a genuine inspiration to young people of every race, everywhere. That she is African American is special to her fellow African Americans, but we can point to her as an example for the world.
Following in the steps of Dominique Dawes, Gabby Douglas has made history. Following in her footsteps, we can all make history.
“I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to Him, and the blessings fall down on me.”
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