As effortlessly as Olympic champion Gabby Douglas flips, soars, and leaps, her victory certainly did not come as easily. Between Twitter users attacking her hair and fellow gymnasts calling her a slave, the 16-year-old simply cannot catch a break.
An interview in the upcoming October issue of Vanity Fair portrayed the gymnast in a very realistic light, highlighting a susceptibility to pain that her bright smile often hides.
Douglas recalled a “very hurtful” instance at a party in 2010, where a staff member from Excalibur Gymnastics, her former training center, suggested that she get a "nose job" to fix its flatness. According to Douglas’ sister Arielle, this jab at Douglas’ nose worsened the teen’s confidence, which was already waning from other hurtful run-ins at the Virginia Beach gym.
Her mother Natalie, who had only recently learned of this incident, told Vanity Fair, “I was flabbergasted.”
Excalibur’s Head Coach Dena Walker, on the other hand, said that Douglas’ nose job claim was “a joke,” according to the reporter.
No stranger to racially tinged rudeness, Douglas told Oprah in a recent episode of "Oprah’s Next Chapter" that she had been called a “slave” by a gymnast at Excalibur.
"I definitely felt isolated. I felt, why am I deserving this?" Douglas said. "Is it because I’m black? Like, those thoughts would go through my mind."
Douglas would eventually leave Excalibur in 2010 to train in Des Moines, Iowa, with Liang Chow, the coach who helped get Gabby to the gold at this year’s London games.
Feeling snubbed by the young gymnast whom they claimed to have invested $20,000 dollars in, Excalibur's CEO and Douglas' former coach Gustavo Maure wrote in an e-mail to Vanity Fair: “We did with Gabby far beyond what are our coaches’ duties. We are proud of what we did. How is it possible . . . to not recognize that she reached [her] level with our help, our economic support, our passion and our love?”
"We've had more African Americans in elite and on the national team than any other gym in the country (5, 2 of them in Olympic Trials or Olympic Team Camp), said Maure in a statement to E! News. "Her African American former teammates will answer this serious accusation. (1st statement untruth, she was not the only African American gymnast training in the gym) We are good people. We never were knowingly involved in any type of bullying or racist treatment, like she is accusing Excalibur."
In addition to touching on Douglas’ relationship with her father and the bouts of loneliness and homesickness she faced while training, the interview also emphasized her exuberance that stole America’s heart.
When asked how she felt about all of the sudden attention she had received from her Olympic win, Douglas responded, “I love all the attention, people noticing me. ‘There’s the gymnast. There she is!’”
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