Since it seems like some people (and media outlets) out there seem to have difficulty understanding that a young Black gymnast just won two gold medals, Gabby Douglas is here to remind you about what’s important:
One of the most nerve-wracking moments of my life happened tonight, as I waited for the final score on floor in the Olympic all-around final. I had finished and was in first place, but Russian gymnast Viktoria Komova was the last gymnast to go and had done an amazing floor routine. My heart was absolutely racing.
Do I have it? Do I not have it? Will I be first? Second?
My coach, Liang Chow, said, “You’re the Olympic champion! You have it!”
But I couldn’t believe him until I saw the scoreboard. When I finally saw the results, I was speechless. Tears of joy streamed down my face, and I started waving to the crowd and my family in the stands.
When my mom first took me to Chow’s gym two years ago, she told him I wanted to be an Olympic champion someday. He told her he would do his best. He jokes now that he wasn’t so sure he could do it.
He has pushed me so hard, and some days I would wonder, “Why do I have to do this?” In the end, though, he believed in me and all the hard work really did pay off. He and his wife Li have shaped me into a better gymnast than I ever thought I could be.
When I first got here to London, I was in some pain from a tweaked muscle. I was feeling a little down. But Chow reminded me that everyone has pain. He said, “Don’t focus on that, you’re at the Olympics! If you don’t push it now, you’ll regret it.” He got me refocused, and, of course, he was right. When I got to the competition and all the nerves kicked in, I didn’t feel a thing.
Tonight, I didn’t think about avoiding mistakes — that’s what gets you into trouble. Instead, I just thought about going out there and representing Team USA, my coaches, my family and myself as best as I could. I just wanted to enjoy the moment. Chow told me not to fear what might happen, but to just believe in myself.
People have asked if I felt like I was on fire here in London, but I just feel normal, the same as I do every day in practice. The difference has been that I was ready to seize the moment, to focus and to trust in what I can do.
You say you want to do it and you dream about it every day, but then when it happens, it’s hard to believe it really has. Tonight, when the U.S. flag was raised and the national anthem played, there were so many camera flashes going off I felt like I was at a concert.
And the crazy thing was, they were all taking pictures of me. [source]
And, after all that beautiful writing, she was still asked about her hair. Equally elegant, she replied:
Women’s gymnastics all-around champion Gabby Douglas likes her hairstyle just fine, thanks.
The 16-year-old said Sunday she was a little confused when she logged onto her computer after winning her second gold medal in three days and discovered people were debating her pulled-back look.
”I don’t know where this is coming from. What’s wrong with my hair?” said Douglas, the first U.S. gymnast to win gold in team and all-around competition. ”I’m like, `I just made history and people are focused on my hair?’ It can be bald or short, it doesn’t matter about (my) hair.”
Douglas uses gel, clips and a ponytail holder to keep things in place while she competes, a style she’s worn for years.
”Nothing is going to change,” she said. ”I’m going to wear my hair like this during beam and bar finals. You might as well just stop talking about it.”
The bubbly teenager is the first African-American gymnast to win her sport’s biggest prize. She had no idea she was lighting up social media until she Googled herself hours after winning her gold medal.
”I don’t think people should be worried about that,” she said. ”We’re all champions and we’re all winners. I just say that it’s kind of, a stupid and crazy thought to think about my hair.”
She tooooooold y’all. Mmhmm.
I know y’all are dying to know what I have to say about this foolishness… and I’ve seen all the snappy comebacks people have had in her defense – “well, at least her hair is hers, what’s that foolishness on our head?” or “she just won two gold medals at age 16, what’ve you done with your life?” – but I can’t even say that someone who would say “we’re all champions and winners” after slaughtering her competition would be okay with knowing other people were being put down in her defense.
What I will say, is that I’ve seen an unbelievably display of poor sportsmanship and really unbecoming conduct among our competitors this year, and it’s not getting anywhere near as much attention as our gold medalist’s hair. I’m shocked that instead of calling out poor behavior and emphasizing the importance of positivity in such a competitive arena, we’d rather nitpick our gold medalists (and yes, I’m talking about Serena and her c-walk.) It “gets more ratings” and website traffic to dissect a teenage girl’s style choices than to talk about the ridiculous conduct of some of the competitors.
And that, I must admit, is what’s most troublesome about this. We’d rather create a pile-on on a young girl about her hair choices than simply set that aside. It’s far too easy for us to put a young girl on an international stage and present as if The Black Delegation doesn’t support her because she doesn’t “represent us” perfectly. I’m sorry, but she represents The United States of America – a far larger delegation – and all many of us are concerned with is whether or not she sticks it… whether or not she brings home the gold. A few people might’ve cared about her ponytail, but far more cared about her performance. Shame on the media for fabricating this entire thing, and pretending otherwise.
Those of us who are regularly, consistently active know that it is a challenge to keep up our training regimens as well as our appearances to a socially-acceptable standard, and many of us have simply given up the responsibility of looking the way someone else thinks we should. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t women out there who don’t do so effortlessly, but it does mean that all of us understand the challenge, and we all know that point where you have the opportunity to decide, “this just doesn’t matter to me as much anymore.” Luckily for Gabby, she’s realized this at age 16. Some of us don’t realize it until we hit our middle-aged years.
Maybe this should be an opportunity for us to come together and reassess whether or not our priorities are in order as a country. Our media believes it’s a smart idea to discuss a few negative tweets in response to Gabby’s hair than to discuss the poor sportsmanship of people sent to an international competition to represent the best of their country. We don’t reemphasize the importance of separating the competition from real life and knowing where each starts and ends. Instead, our media inflates a story about Black women collectively putting down a young “one of our own.”
I’m just… I’m not here for that.
Hopefully, I’m on the tail end of the discussion. Hopefully, everyone takes Gabby’s advice and simply “stops talking about” it. Hopefully, more people will understand the part of commitment where you are comfortable saying to yourself, “you know what? this just isn’t as important to me anymore.” And, most importantly, when a person says “this isn’t important to me anymore,” it won’t be hundreds of thousands of people nitpicking that choice.