On Sunday, Gabby Douglas sat down with Oprah and revealed some pretty harrowing anecdotes about some of the racial bullying she allegedly endured while training at Excalibur's gym in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She told Oprah that, as the only African American training at Excalibur, she sometimes felt bullied, which in turn made her feel even more isolated. "I felt," she told Oprah, "‘Why am I deserving this? Is it because I'm black?'" According to Douglas, one incident in particular pushed her to the brink of quitting. An apparently shiftless training partner was asked to scrape chalk off the bars and, rather than just doing it, asked, "Why doesn't Gabby do it? She's our slave."
That, Douglas revealed to Oprah, is the way she was singled out at Excalibur, but since the interview aired, some other Excalibur alums have rushed to the gym's defense, calling Douglas' allegations of racism "ridiculous," and saying that plenty of other African American gymnasts have nothing but "fantastic memories" from training there. Randy Stageberg, a former Senior International Elite and National Team member, had this to say about the Oprah interview's revelations:
This is absolutely ridiculous. I trained at Excalibur gymnastics for 8 years and I personally trained with gabby for 2 of those years. The accusations that are being made against the gymnasts and coaches are just sickening... I am not saying that she never felt bullied because when you are in a sport with a bunch of girls it is bond [sic] to happen. However, anything that she may have felt was never about race and I can assure you everyone at some point has felt bullied. I never once heard her complain about girls being mean, funny how it is just now coming up.
Stageberg, of course, might be privy to inside information that none of us gymnastics lay people could possibly fathom, but she admits that Douglas could definitely have felt bullied at some point. The ‘kids will be kids' excuse isn't enough to explain away Douglas' tales of bullying, and only Douglas would really know or feel if a particular instance of bullying was racially charged or not. As for Douglas not complaining about bullying while she was training, the whole point of bullying is to intimidate someone, and, what with her getting ready for international competition, Douglas probably had more important things to think about than seeing a puerile tormentor face justice.
Gabby's bullying accusations on Oprah [GymNewstics]