Olympic Distraction about Gabby Douglas

by Prez Ro, Matteson, IL

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After U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas made history by becoming the first African-American to win the all-around Olympic gold, the moment was both overwhelming and unbelievable. Douglas put on a show, from start to finish, beating Russia's Victoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina (bronze) and fellow American Aly Raisman who finished with the same score as Mustafina, but missed the bronze due to a tie-breaker rule that adds the top three of four event scores.

Douglas became the fourth U.S. gymnast to capture the coveted all-around title, following Mary Lou Retton (1984), Carly Patterson (2004) and Nastia Liukin (2008). Douglas' win came two days after the Americans won the team gold, further underscoring the program's dominance. An American woman has now won the all-around title at the last three Olympics, marking the first time a women's program has achieved this feat since the Soviets (1952-60).

But the topic shifted to a ton of e-chatter after the 16-year-old Olympian sported a gelled-down ponytail – much like the hair styles of her fellow gymnasts – black folks on social media outlets lit on fire demonstrating their keyboard muscles with comments from both men and women, complaining that her ‘do looked unkempt.

And it’s so disconcerting that she (Douglas) even had to respond to this hair nonsense, saying what we’ve all been saying: What is the big deal? According to USA Today, the teenage Olympian said, “I just simply gelled it back, put some clips in it and put it in a bun. Are you kidding me? I just made history. And you’re focusing on my hair?”

As it’s been reported, exercise keeps lots of women of color out of the gym, so you can imagine, how hard it is on an athlete such as Gabby.“Gymnastics is tough on hair, any hair. I mean as a girl I can tell you ponytails are not your hairs friend,” Natalie Hawkins said, Gabby’s mother. “It’s really been African American women that have come out and attacked her. They don’t know about gymnastics. She has to keep her hair in a ponytail 28-30 hours a week. In  gymnastics you’re tumbling around on your hair. You’re falling backwards on it. You’re doing “timers” and your hair is constantly snagging on the mat, and for our hair that’s very detrimental. You’re going into foam pits – and any hair stylist will tell you that foam on African American hair is destructive. It breaks the hair horribly.”
Ted Gibson, celebrity hair-stylist even weighed in saying "I couldn't believe it and still can't. You have this young girl doing amazing things, and the conversation becomes about her hair? It was ridiculous and shameful."
Her back story is well documented, as she moved from her family in Virginia Beach to train in Des Moines, Iowa with Liang Chow, who also coached Shawn Johnson (2008 Olympic silver medalist) at the age of 14.  Leaving home at such a young age and adjusting to a new environment and host family was challenging.

Nonetheless, the move helped transform a raw talent into an Olympic champion. Douglas' progress in the last five months was particularly remarkable.

"She showed such great improvement, it is incredible in such a short  time," said U.S. team coordinator Marta Karolyi "I have never seen an average but good gymnast climb up to be the best in the world (in such a short time). That's the truth."

Letting her youngest daughter leave home and move in with a host family wasn't easy for Douglas' mother and family. "I just think in life you have one time to get it right," Hawkins said earlier this summer. "There are not many times you can go back and do it over. I said to her, 'I don't want you to move away but if this is what you feel you need to go to the next level to make your dreams come true, I'm aboard.' "

Before her flight landed, Douglas remembers looking down at the endless rows of corn fields thinking, "Where's the water? Where's everything?"

Those questions soon didn't matter. Her host family, the Partons, made her feel at home. She soon became a big sister to their four younger daughters. "She's like my fifth daughter," said Travis Parton, who was in the stands with his wife, Missy, and Douglas' mother, sisters and brother.

It didn't matter that most times she was the only black girl in the gym. She loved what she was doing.

"It was definitely strange. It was so strange," she said. She'd be listening to a rap song and a fellow gymnast wouldn't know the music. "You don't know this song? Oh sorry." And they would say, you don't country?"

Then she added, in that typical teenage voice, "This is awkward."

Still., there were many struggles along the way. Paying for the expensive training and travel that an elite gymnast requires was difficult, especially when Hawkins was on long-term medical disability from a job at a financial services company. Her parents are divorced but Douglas' father Timothy, a reservist in the military who has done tours in Afghanistan, was also gone for long stretches.

But in the end, the sacrifices were all worth it. "I'm so happy for her, so thrilled," Hawkins said as her daughter left the arena with a gold medal around her neck. "I love her and I'm so proud of her." She said she hopes it will inspire other girls to take chances, to follow their dreams. "I hope they will see that there's no struggle that's too hard," Hawkins said. "There's no difficulty that's too big. … You can strive for your dream no matter what. You have to take those chances. If it works out, great, if not have no regrets."

There were certainly none Thursday. This was her night, her concert. "I just wanted to go on the floor and treat it like the trials," Douglas said. "Just show it off and perform. You have to learn to enjoy and seize the moment."

So again, was her image of battered hair that important, or was it people being able to hide behind their keyboards, flex their muscles in some sad humor at someone else’s expense?
The bottom line is purely it doesn’t matter what you think of Douglas’ hair... one it’s here hair. And believe it or not, her hair doesn’t pay your gas bill, light bill, cable bill, internet, etc…. and well, she won 2 gold medals! When was the last time you won something on such a stage?

If you can take away one thing, let’s ALL stop being so critical of each other and learn to lift each other up. Let’s concentrated on the gold instead of caddy things like this, so we all can be more productive.
Be sure to check out A Word from a Brother for more... ~click here

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.  ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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