London Dreams
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Lesson from London: Gabby Douglas's journey means more than her gold medal outcome

Lesson from London: Gabby Douglas's journey means more than her gold medal outcome

Gabby Douglas, gymnastics, Olympics
Douglas's journey to the Olympics, epitomizes hard work, persistence and sacrifice.  Photo by Al Tielemans /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
Gabby Douglas, Kellogg's, corn flakes
Following in a long list of Olympic winners, Gabby Douglas now graces the box of Kellogg's Corn Flakes. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images for Kelloggs
Gabby Douglas, gymnastics, Olympics
Gabby Douglas, Kellogg's, corn flakes

Gabby Douglas captured the hearts of Americans and many people around the world this week as she competed and won gold twice at the 2012 Olympics. This 16-year old gymnast made history on multiple fronts. She’s the first United States gymnast to win a team gold and an individual gold in the all-around competition. She’s also the first African-American gymnast to win the all around title. Douglas is hands down America’s sweetheart and her timing couldn’t be better.

As a nation, we need a “happy story," one that epitomizes hard work, persistence and even sacrifice. Douglas is all of that and more. I’m not suggesting we canonize her or put her on some unrealistic pedestal, I’m talking about recognizing what her journey means to so many of us.

 I’m not suggesting we canonize her or put her on some unrealistic pedestal, I’m talking about recognizing what her journey means to so many of us.

 To get a little perspective on Douglas’ victory I spoke with Zina Garrison, a Houstonian who also achieved a first at the Olympics back in1988. Garrison was the first African-American tennis player to win an Olympic gold medal when she teamed with Pam Shriver to win the doubles title in Seoul. Garrison also won bronze in the singles competition.

She was one of the millions of Americans following and cheering for Douglas this week and says she too felt the emotion shared by people around the world.

“I remember being on that podium and not having any idea how my life was about to change,” said Garrison. “It is an amazing and overwhelming experience that might not soak in for days.”

Douglas’s performance, composure and million dollar smile have people tweeting, sending Facebook messages and engaging in positive conversations about all of the above. It’s a triumphant thing that connects people of various backgrounds regardless of race and economics. In this current climate, that’s rare and quite refreshing. It’s why I love sports so much because it’s one of those moments that people can be on the same page despite their differences — even if only for a moment.

This brave, talented and focused teenager’s journey is the end and at the same time the beginning of a great story. I have no doubt her Olympic dominance will someday be just a chapter in the book of her amazing life. Whenever she is interviewed she talks about her faith, hard work, sacrifice and just the dream she had to be at this very place. What a concept in this microwave society we live in. You know the kind where we focus on the outcome and overlook the journey? 

 “I remember being on that podium and not having any idea how my life was about to change,” said Garrison. “It is an amazing and overwhelming experience that might not soak in for days.”

 Garrison says Douglas has changed the face of gymnastics.

“Gabby had the insight to see at that at a very young age she needed to make a bold move,” Garrison says of Douglas’ decision to move to Iowa and train with her coach Liang Chow. “She put in the work. With reality TV all people see is the outcome, no one talks about the work. Gabby kept talking about the hard work and sacrifices it took to get here. It’s just like when you look at Beyoncé, people don’t know what all she did to succeed, how hard she worked and what she sacrificed, but I remember.”

This is also a good message for parents of aspiring athletes. There are no shortcuts or magic pills. You have to go through the process. The process is undoubtedly part of what makes Douglas so mentally tough. Garrison says one of things African-American athletes in sports like tennis and gymnastics always hear is that they can’t handle the pressure. Well Douglas shut that down as well. She not only handled the pressure, she vaulted over it and credited her God every chance she got.

Dominique Dawes won a gold medal with the U.S. team in the 1996 games and is covering the London Olympics for FoxSports.com. She says she’s proud to take down her website that lists her as the only African American gymnast to win an Olympic gold medal. Filled with emotion she too weighs in on what Douglas accomplished.

“What touches my heart is the fact that there is a whole generation of young people are now looking up to Gabby like they looked up to me," Dawes said.

When asked what advice she would give Douglas at this important time in her life. “Keep God fist in your live. She’s been tweeting about her faith; she’s been tweeting scriptures. Keep Him first and foremost and only be guided my Him," answered Dawes.

Sage advice from someone who herself has a pretty amazing story.

Kim Davis is a seasoned journalist with nearly two decades of experience covering sports, news and politics in television, radio and print. She’s a talk show host, keynote speaker, media coach, entrepreneur and health and fitness enthusiast. If you have questions or comments for Kim or about “Chalk Talk," you can reach her at kim@thekdcompany.com.