On Sunday, Gabrielle Douglas earned the guaranteed Olympic women’s gymnastics spot by winning the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials over reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber. Douglas has also earned the nickname “Flying Squirrel” because of her height-defying gymnastics skills.
“Everyone was telling me you have this great potential and you can be on top,” Douglas told ESPN. “I didn’t believe that, but everyone was just telling me to believe in myself. I did and I’m kind of up on top and it’s amazing.”
Douglas is quickly becoming one of this year’s favorite Olympic athletes. Just take a look at how the Associated Press describes the 16-year-old Olympian: “With cover girl looks, a personality that leaps through the TV set and a nickname you won’t soon forget, Douglas has all the makings of the next Mary Lou or Shawn.”
“I could never have imagined this scenario,” Natalie Hawkins, Douglas’ mother told the AP. Douglas has been living away from her mother in Virginia Beach, VA for the past two years so she could train with her coach in Iowa.
“I knew the talent was there because everybody, anybody who came in contact with me, coaches, other gym parents, always told me how talented she was. So I knew that. And I knew if she had the right pieces of the puzzle that she would have the potential. But all of this? No, I never saw that,” Douglas’ mother went on to say.
Douglas is the first African American since Dominique Dawes in 2000 to join the women’s U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team. Douglas hopes to be only the second African American woman (women’s gymnastics) to win an individual medal. Dawes won a floor exercise bronze in 1996.