Gabby the “Flying Squirrel” Douglas has captured the heart of America with her stunning routines and aerial assaults on her way to winning the gold. A self admitted novice on the sport of gymnastics I’ve had a distant and very discreet curiosity watching the young women on the beam , parallel bars and moving briskly through choreographed floor routines. However watching Gabby excel in London has generated a greater appreciation for the type of athletes these young women truly are. The hard work and sacrifice they make to get to the Olympics is nothing short of incredible. As I watched Gabby’s performance I could not help but think of how proud not only her immediate family must be , but how proud the unnamed and unsung heroes of the Civil Rights movement must be as well
Gabby is breaking down barriers and stereotypes with each performance and her efforts directly reflect what those heroes of the movement fought, sacrificed and died for and that was the chance for all people to have equal access and opportunities. Gabby is a perfect example that if given the chance and same support system young people from impoverished backgrounds can achieve extraordinary results. Her excellence in London proves that its not just about ability and talent, its about preparation and that includes gaining access to the best training, facilities, and coaching that more privilege youths receive as part of a normal expectancy. The soldiers of the Civil Rights movement fought to open those doors for Gabby and others to walk through.
Gabby achievements symbolize the world of which Dr. Martin L. King immortalized in the the infamous “I have a Dream “speech , where a person will be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. There is no doubt that Gabby’s race has come front and center as the first African American to win the all around competition and join the likes of Mary Lou Retton, Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin. She along with her coach Liang Chow make a striking pair as they represent the face of today’s America.
Gabby’s exploits in the arena are the traits that are making the world stand up and take notice, she is phenomenal and that has nothing to do with race it has to do with the discovery of her talents and her family making a supreme sacrifice to allow her to leave to receive the best training to develop those talents. The real winners of Gabby’s victory are the young people of all races who aspire to believe they too can achieve greatness because they saw a young 16 year old woman with a beautiful smile that will melt the coldest of hearts put her best foot forward.
This country will have really turned the corner in appreciating the richness of our diversity when children like Gabby no longer have to leave their families to access the best of everything because it will be available in their own community.