Excellence Personified: Gabby Douglas

First Woman of Color in Olympic History to Become The Individual All-Around Champion

Gymnastics is one of those sports that I won’t miss during the Olympics, and this year with 16-year old Gabrielle Douglas on the American team, I’ve been glued to the television for their performances. We all watched with bated breath as on July 31st, Douglas and her teammates, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and Jordyn Wieber, won the team all-around gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympic But yesterday, August 2nd, was the cherry on top as Douglas won the gold medal in the individual all-around, becoming the first African-American woman and first woman of color to win the event. She is also the first American gymnast ever to win both the team and individual all-around gold at the same Olympics. Perhaps the best is still to come, as Douglas is scheduled to take part in the finals of uneven bars on August 6th and balance beam on August 7th.

What does this tell us about excellence? Truthfully, that it stands within our reach, and any reason for not trying to make contact with it lives as an excuse. Gabby Douglas doesn’t come from a remarkable background; there is no indication of her family being superior in wealth or education. What we do know is she had the type of familial support that encouraged, sacrificed, and rallied around her talent and desire to become who she stands as today. In addition to that, Gabby’s determination and focus on her own goals have her in the midst of an elite group of athletes at the age of 16. She has nowhere to go but up. 

I see Gabby Douglas as an example to myself as a parent and educator to continue to support and encourage all children to strive for excellence. Our backgrounds, culture, and race do not define or provide limits to our abilities. It is our ability to dream that determines our futures really, for it we can see where we want to be we can create that life for ourselves.

Today, I won’t concentrate on the ignorant portrayals of Black women specifically in mass media because beyond them stands a girl, Gabby Douglas, whose light is so bright it blocks all else out. Gabby, we are proud of your for setting an example for us, and for making history out of your passion. Thank you for reminding us that in order to be excellent, all we need to do it go for the gold.

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