What a year it’s been for Olympic gold gymnast Gabrielle Douglas. Just four months ago, she vaulted into fame (and everyone’s heart), winning gold at the London games, becoming the first African-American woman to ever win a gold medal in the Olympics all-around gymnastics competition. She also became the first U.S. gymnast ever to receive the individual all-around gold and team gold medals in a single Olympic games.
It’s an impressive accomplishment under the best of circumstances. But in her sixteen years, she’s had to deal with homelessness, racism, and bullying. She’s sharing her story in a new book called “Grace, Gold and Glory.”
On PoliticsNation she talked about how all those struggles paid off on that summer night when she won her gold. “I was thinking about all the sacrificing me and my family put into this,” she said. “Overcoming injuries and being homeless at one point and all the struggles that we faced, I was thinking ‘it was so worth it.’”
At the young age of 14, Gabby made the difficult decision leave her mother and family to move to Iowa to train in a more competitive gym. She found herself homesick, especially as her family packed up to head back to Virginia at the end of a Christmas. Her mother, Natalie Hawkins, pushed her to keep going despite how much she missed her daughter. “I knew she had a love and a passion for the sport, and I knew she had a dream,” she said. “The days I would go through where I felt like my heart was breaking, I would think, ‘she’s doing what she loves.’ It was hard, but I knew that that was where she wanted to be and I couldn’t be selfish, I had to let her go and let her give it everything she had.”
Reverend Al Sharpton and Gabrielle connected over having grown up with absent fathers. Her relationship with her father isn’t good today, but she hopes that, after reading her book, he might understand how she felt while he was gone, and that they might build a better relationship in the future.
Another hope for the future? Another gold. Gabby says she plans to try for a spot on the U.S. gymnastics team in 2016 for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. She says she’s looking forward to getting back into training soon to learn new skills and take her talents to the next level.
Asked about her aspirations beyond 2016, Gabby admits, “I think I’ve been bit by the acting bug.” For now, Gabby says she hopes her story will inspire others who are facing struggles to keep fighting for their dreams. “I want to relate to everyone out there and to tell them no matter what nationality you are, no matter what color of your skin, or it doesn’t matter how much money you have, if you just trust and believe yourself 100%, you can get there,” she said. ”It wasn’t easy. It was hard, but I want them to know you can still achieve your dreams.”
Watch part 2 of Gabby’s interview on PoliticsNation: