Gymnast Gabby Douglas arrived in Rio with great expectations which, she confesses, have gone unfulfilled. She was unable to defend her 2012 all-around title and, in the midst of the Games, she confronted an onslaught of bitter criticism. Now, with the competitions behind her, she is taking stock of these fraught experiences.
The shining teenaged star of the 2012 Games, Douglas won all-around gold and, this year, earned the distinction of qualifying for the Olympics a second time at age 20. With so many American gyms producing Olympic-ready teenagers, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to qualify past adolescence.
But this year, Douglas could not maintain her stellar record. And viewers began to accuse her of bad sportsmanship, even lack of patriotism. In a tearful interview with the Washington Post, she explained, “When they talk about my hair or me not putting my hand on my heart or me being very salty in the stands, they’re really criticizing me, and it doesn’t really feel good. It was a little bit hurtful.”
Douglas, in the meantime, has been steering clear of the internet because of the cruel comments lobbed at her. But she’s also trying to apologize for her perceived sour attitude and simultaneously defend her actions. Via The Post:
“‘Everything I’ve gone through has been a lot this time around,’ Douglas said, ‘and I apologize if [I seemed] really mad in the stands. I wasn’t. I was supporting Aly. And I will always support them and respect them in everything they do. I never want anyone to take it as I was jealous or I wanted attention. Never. I support them, and I’m sorry I wasn’t showing it.”
She did hop on Twitter briefly to congratulate teammates Aly Raisman and Simone Biles for their performances in all-around.
And, ultimately, she’s not going to crumple before her critics.
“I’ve been through a lot...I still love the people who love me. Still love them that hate me. I’m just going to stand on that.”
In light of Douglas’s disappointments and emotional trials, reporters have been curious as to whether her Olympics were “ruined” — one asked her pointedly. But she maintained perspective and grace.
No, the Games weren’t ruined, she responded, they were “an amazing, crazy—also fun—experience.”
At the same time, the outcome wasn’t what she imagined. That’s also ok.
“I pictured it differently,” she tells The Post, “but that’s ok because I’m just going to take this experience as a really good, positive one.”
Ed. note: The headline on this post has been changed.