Sixteen year old Gabby Douglas, won the gold medal in today's women's gymnastics individual all-around. Like many of the parents we've watched during these Olympic games, her mother, Natalie Hawkins, has been by Gabby's side every step of the way -- giving pep talks before competition and cheering loudly from the stands.
At 3 years old, Gabby did perfect cartwheels with straight legs. Her three siblings saw that she was uniquely talented. Older sister Arielle mentored Gabby, and begged Natalie to sign the young star up for gymnastics class. But, mom was apprehensive. It took four years of the kids' "badgering" before she gave in, Natalie recalls.
After five years of training at home in Virginia Beach, Va., Gabby had a pivotal moment. She watched Shawn Johnson compete in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and knew she needed a new coach -- Shawn's coach, Liang Chow, to be exact. Gabby felt that her coaches at home had nothing left to teach her. The big problem was that Coach Chow trained thousands of miles away in West Des Moines, Iowa.
"No way, it's not gonna happen," Natalie told her daughter. Yet, again, she folded. Two years later, Natalie agreed to let Gabby move to Iowa and pursue her dreams, despite struggling with the decision. "I know I need to do it, but how do I send my youngest child away to a family that I dont know?" she remembers thinking.
Gabby moved in with the Parton family, and Natalie became more comfortable with the distance between them as her daughter settled in. "Even more than 3,000 miles away I can still mother her," Natalie says. The young gymnast was getting closer to representing her country -- and winning gold.
Then, in 2011, the tables turned. Gabby felt homesick and wanted to move back to Virginia. But this time, Mom wouldn't let her. "She told me, life is not easy, you have to fight and just refuse to quit," Gabby remembers.
Now that Gabby has realized her goals and become an Olympic champion, Natalie has no regrets. "Letting go of Gabrielle [was] one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life but it's now one of the most rewarding things that I've ever gotten to experience ... there's no greater joy than for a parent to see their child reach their dream," she says.
And reality is just starting to kick in. "I've raised an Olympian! Wow, that's a powerful statement right there."
Danell Leyva - 2012
Stepfather and coach Yin Alvarez, right, hugs U.S. gymnast Danell Leyva after he won the bronze medal during the artistic gymnastics men's individual all-around competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Matt Grevers - 2012
Matt Grevers celebrates with his dad Ed and mom Anja after he won the championship final of the Men's 100 m Backstroke during Day Three of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials at CenturyLink Center on June 27, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska. Credit: Al Bello, Getty Images
Allison Schmitt - 2012
Allison Schmitt celebrates with her parents during the medal ceremony for the Women's 400 m Freestyle during Day Two of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials at CenturyLink Center on June 26, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska. Credit: Jamie Squire, Getty Images
Maria Riesch - 2010
Germany's gold winner Maria Riesch (R) hugs her mother Monika Riesch as her father Siggi Riesch (L) looks on after the flowers ceremony of the women's Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics Slalom event at Whistler Creek side Alpine skiing venue on February 26, 2010. Credit: Michael Kappeler, AFP / Getty Images
Evan Lysacek - 2010
Evan Lysacek of the United States is greeted by his mother Tanya at the USA House after winning the men's figure skating Olympic gold medal on February 18, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada. Credit: Christopher Polk, Getty Images
Shaun White - 2010
USA's gold medalist Shaun White (L) celebrates with his mother Cathy White after the men's Snowboard Halfpipe final on February 17, 2010 at Cypress Mountain, north of Vancouver during the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Credit: Adrian Dennis, AFP / Getty Images
Seth Wescott - 2010
Seth Wescott of the US embraces his mother Margaret after winning the Men's Snowboard SBX final at Cypress Mountain during the Vancouver Winter Olympics, north of Vancouver on February 15, 2010. Credit: Adrian Dennis, AFP / Getty Images
Felix Loch - 2010
Felix Loch of Germany is congratulated by his father Norbert Loch after winning the gold medal after the final run of the men's luge singles final on day 3 of the 2010 Winter Olympics at Whistler Sliding Centre on February 14, 2010 in Whistler, Canada. Credit: Alexander Hassenstein, Bongarts / Getty Images
Zhang Yining - 2008
China's Zhang Yining (L) celebrates with her mother (C) while her father (R) looks on after defeating her compatriot Wang Nan in the women's singles table tennis final gold medal match at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games on August 22, 2008. Zhang defeated her compatriot Wang 4-1 to win the gold medal. Credit: Teh Eng Koon, AFP / Getty Images
Michael Phelps - 2008
US swimmer Michael Phelps kisses his mother Debbie after the medal ceremony for the men's 4 x 200m freestyle relay swimming final at the National Aquatics Center during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Beijing on August 13, 2008. A US team led by superstar Michael Phelps broke the men's 4x200m freestyle relay world record with a time of 6min 58.56sec. The victory gave Phelps his fifth gold medal of the Beijing Games and the 11th Olympic gold of his career. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Kimberly Glass - 2008
Kimberly Glass of the United States hugs her mother Kathryn Storms after their win over Cuba in Women's Semifinals volleyball game held at the Capital Indoor Stadium during Day 13 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 21, 2008 in Beijing, China. Credit: Jeff Gross, Getty Images
Maria Valentina Vezzali - 2008
Maria Valentina Vezzali of Italy kisses her mother Enrica after winning the women's fencing individual foil gold medal match over Nam Hyunhee of South Korea (not pictured) at the Fencing Hall on Day 3 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 11, 2008 in Beijing, China. Credit: Alexander Hassenstein, Bongarts / Getty Images
Rebeka Harmon - 2008
Russia basketball player Rebeka Hammon (R) is kissed by her mother Bev Marty at the end of the women's quarter-final basketball match Russian Federation vs. Spain at the Olympic basketball gymnasium on August 19, 2008 in Beijing, as part of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Russia won 84 to 65. Credit: Antonio Scorza, AFP / Getty Images
Nastia Liukin - 2008
United States' Nastia Liukin (R) celebrates with her father and coach, Valeri Liukin after winning the gold in the women's individual all-around final of the artistic gymnastics event of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing on August 15, 2008. United States' Nastia Liukin won the gold, her compatriot Shawn Johnson the silver and China's Yilin Yang the bronze. Credit: Lluis Gene, AFP / Getty Images
Chellsie Memmel - 2008
Chellsie Memmel gets a hug from her coach and father Andy Memmel after competing on the balance beam during day four of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for gymnastics at the Wachovia Center on June 22, 2008 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Credit: Al Bello, Getty Images
Leisel Jones - 2008
Leisel Jones of Australia is congratulated by her mother Rosemary after winning the gold medal in the Women's 100m Breaststroke held at the National Aquatics Center on Day 4 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 12, 2008 in Beijing, China. Credit: Jed Jacobsohn, Getty Images
Kati Wilhelm - 2006
Press photographers take pictures as Women's biathlon 10km pursuit gold winner Kati Wilhelm of Germany hugs her mother at the Turin 2006 Winter Olympic Games, 18 February 2006 in Cesana San Sicario. Wilhelm won the gold while compatriot Martina Glagow took her second biathlon silver and Russia Albina Akhatova took a second biathlon bronze. Credit: Eric Feferberg, AFP / Getty Images
Tanja Frieden - 2006
Switzerland's Tanja Frieden is congratulated by her father Peter after winning the Ladies' Snowboard Cross final at the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics Feb. 17, 2006 in Bardonecchia, Italy. Frieden won ahead of US Lindsey Jacobellis and Canada's Dominique Maltais. The Turin Winter Olympics officially opened 10 February setting the ball rolling on a 17-day festival of snow and ice sports. Credit: Fabrice Coffrini, AFP / Getty Images
Kimberley Rhode - 2004
Kimberley Rhode of the USA hugs her father Richard after winning the Gold medal in the women's double trap finals on August 18, 2004 during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games at the Markopoulo Olympic Shooting Centre in Athens, Greece. Credit: Robert Laberge, Getty Images
Ning Zhang - 2004
Ning Zhang of China gets a hug from her mother after winning the gold medal for the women's singles badminton event on August 19, 2004 during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games at Olympic Hall in the Goudi Olympic Complex in Athens, Greece. Credit: Stuart Franklin, Getty Images
Tim Cuddihy - 2004
Tim Cuddihy of Australia is congratulated by his mother after winning the Bronze in the men's individual bronze medal match on August 19, 2004 during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games at Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens, Greece. Credit: Nick Laham , Getty Images
Imke Duplitzer - 2004
Germany's Imke Duplitzer hugs her father 20 August 2004 after winning the last assault against France's Laura Flessel-Colovic during the semi-finals of the women's team epee in Athens 20 August 2004, during the Olympic Games. Credit: Marco Longari, Getty Images
Georgina Harland - 2004
Georgina Harland of Great Britain is hugged and congratulated by her parents after winning the Bronze medal in the women's modern pentathlon on August 27, 2004 during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games at the Olympic Modern Pentathlon Centre in the Goudi Olympic Complex in Athens, Greece. Credit: Stu Forster, Getty Images
Hicham El Guerrouj - 2004
Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj (R)celebrates with his father and daughter after winning the men's 1,500m final at the Olympic Stadium 24 August 2004 during the Olympic Games athletics competitions in Athens. Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco ended eight years of agony here on Tuesday as he won the Olympic Games men's 1500 metres gold medal. Credit: Eric Feferberg, AFP / Getty Images
Sarah Ulmer - 2004
New Zealand's Sarah Ulmer is kissed by her mother Nuala as her father Gary (L) watches on after winning the final of the Womens Individual Pursuit against Australia's Katie Mactier in the Olympic Velodrome at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, Sunday August 22nd, 2004. Credit: Getty Images
Beckie Scott -2002
Beckie Scott of Canada is congratulated by her parents after winning bronze in the Women's 5km Free Pursuit Cross Country at Soldier Hollow in Heber City during the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in Utah. Credit: Jed Jacobson, Getty Images
Sasha Cohen - 2002
Sasha Cohen of the USA hugs her father after competing in the ladies free program during the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games on the February 21, 2002 at the Salt Lake Ice Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Credit: Jamie Squire, Getty Images
Chris Witty - 2002
Chris Witty of the US is congratulated by her father and her brother (L) after winning the gold medal of the women's 1000m speed skating race at the Utah Olympic Oval, 17 February 2002 during the XIXth Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Credit: John Macdougall, AFP / Getty Images
Stephanie Cook - 2000
Stephanie Cook of Great Britain is hugged by her father after winning Gold in the Womens Modern Pentathlon on the Day 16 of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Credit: Mike Hewitt, Allsport / Getty Images
Sebastian Coe - 1984
Sebastian Coe of Great Britain hugs his father Peter after winning the 1500m event final during the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles, California, USA on the 12th August 1984.(Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images) Sebastian Coe won the 1500m final in 3.32,53.
Peggy Fleming - 1968
Olympic gold medal winner Peggy Fleming, center, has tears in her eyes as she is embraced by her mother, Doris, after winning the Women's Figure Skating competition in Grenoble, France, on Feb. 10, 1968. It is the first gold medal for the United States at the X Winter Olympic Games. Credit: AP
Bob Mathias - 1948
American athlete Bob Mathias (1930 - 2006) is hugged by his mother, Lillian, after winning the gold medal in the decathlon at the Olympic Games, Wembley Stadium, London, 7th August 1948. At seventeen years old he was the youngest male ever to win an Olympic gold. Mathias went on to win a second decathlon gold at the Helsinki games in 1952, and later embarked on a political career as a US Representative. Credit: Keyston / Hulton Archive / Getty Images