Passion to defy her past

Gabrielle Douglas, fondly known as Gabby, is an American artistic gymnast who rose to stardom at the 2012 London Olympics, where she was the first African-American in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champion and the first U.S. gymnast to win gold in both individual all-around and team competitions during the same Olympics.

Gabby Douglas undercover
Gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas put on a disguise to go undercover and discover gifted gymnasts and coaches for an episode of Undercover Boss: Celebrity Edition last September, for CBS Television Network. (Photo Mark Hill/CBS via Getty Images)
Gabby Douglas undercover
Gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas put on a disguise to go undercover and discover gifted gymnasts and coaches for an episode of Undercover Boss: Celebrity Edition last September, for CBS Television Network. (Photo Mark Hill/CBS via Getty Images)

Gabrielle Douglas, fondly known as Gabby, is an American artistic gymnast who rose to stardom at the 2012 London Olympics, where she was the first African-American in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champion and the first U.S. gymnast to win gold in both individual all-around and team competitions during the same Olympics.

As a public figure, Gabby's successes shot her to fame, however, the humble 22-year-old refuses to take all the credit for herself. "God has given me this amazing talent, so I'm going to go out [there] and glorify His name," she states boldly.

That talent was forged in some very difficult circumstances, though.

When Gabby, the youngest of four, was born, she was very sickly and could not keep food down. At a few months old, she was diagnosed with a life-threatening blood disease. Her mother, Natalie, could not afford a doctor or medicine and knew that she only had one option.

“Believe,
don’t fear,
Believe”
"I would stay up all night praying [for her]," Natalie recalls.

God listened to this mother's heartfelt prayers and miraculously, Gabby started to gain weight and soon became a healthy, happy baby.

However, the family struggled financially as they suffered from extreme poverty. Up until Gabby was five, they all lived in a small van.

"I was very young so I do not remember [all the details]," Gabby says. "But we would eat on the floor off napkins."

When Gabby's father walked out on them, the family had to move into their grandmother's home until they could find a place of their own.

Knowing that the road ahead would not be an easy one, Natalie made sure that prayer and Bible study was a priority in her children's lives.

This sure foundation has kept Gabby on track during her most difficult times, and caused her to accept Jesus into her heart when she was young. "Faith plays a very big role in my life. I do not know where I would be without it today," she says.

As a child, Gabby found her passion in gymnastics, starting when she was just six. However, it was expensive and Natalie could not afford all of her children's pursuits. In an act of selflessness and generosity, Gabby's two older sisters decided to give up their activities so Gabby could pursue her dreams, one of which was heading to the Olympics.

When she was 14, Gabby moved to Iowa to train full-time with her coach, Liang Chow. She took her training seriously, spending six days a week in the gym. Chow, who had coached previous Olympic gold medallists, transformed Gabby from an average member of the national team to a top contender.

During this time, Gabby began to attract more and more attention as she competed at various national competitions. She was particularly skilled on the uneven bars and her ability to gain extraordinary height in the air when releasing from the apparatus earned her the label 'The Flying Squirrel'.

Eventually, Gabby's life-long dream of competing in the Olympics came true. However, "I got to a really dark place where I almost wanted to quit, right before the [2012] Olympic Games". But, with encouragement streaming in from her friends and family, Gabby's determination rallied.

"I had to rely on my faith the most. I went to the gym and said, 'OK, if I'm going to the Olympics, I'm going to do it big.' I prayed and meditated on Bible passages. I went back to the gym and my coach said he saw this fire in my eyes," she explains._

During the London Olympics, Gabby's exceptional talent was on full display when, at the age of 16, she walked away with two gold medals and the satisfaction of knowing that she was the fourth USA Olympic all-around champion in history to win the title.

"It was just an amazing feeling," she gushes. "I just told myself, 'Believe, don't fear, believe.'"

Gabby also took part in the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she was a part of the final five participants. However, she was pipped in the final round, by teammate Simone Biles.

Gabby refused to let this get her down, though. "I'm not disappointed at all," she said in an interview at the time. "I have no regrets." She still managed to land the title of the AT&T American Cup all-around champion that year.

Gabby then decided to take a break from sport and focus more on family life and her walk with God.

Gabby Douglas
Former Gymnast Gabby Douglas attends the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation's 28th Annual 'A Time For Heroes' Family Festival at Smashbox Studios last October in Culver City, California. (Photo Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)

Aside from gymnastics, she has several other accomplishments.

In 2012 she released an inspirational memoir, In Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith, in which she reveals that she can also speak and write Hebrew, and in 2014 she did all her own stunts in the movie they made from it, The Gabby Douglas Story, which aired on Lifetime, starring Imani Hakim as the young celebrity. Gabby also acquired her own reality television series, Douglas Family Gold, which premiered on May 25, 2016.

In 2017, she was selected as one of the judges for the Miss America pageant.

Sadly, that same year Gabby went public, along with others, about having been sexually abused as a teenager by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

"You know, God has a plan for me, and I am going to follow in His footsteps and just rejoice and be happy," the brave gold-medallist champion says.

"I love sharing my story and I love sharing about my faith," she continues. "I want to be a blessing to others. I want people [to know] that even though they may be going through difficulties and phases and even though [life] is hard sometimes, anything is possible if you set your mind to it."

Her motto could be the text from Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

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