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At just 16 years old, American gymnast Gabby Douglas has already accomplished an incredible feat.She made history at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London when she became the first African-American woman to win gold medals in both the team gold and individual all-around competitions.
Douglas told the New York Times she was confident in herself the entire time. “It was just an amazing feeling… I was just like, Believe, don’t fear, believe,” she said.
But not everyone had praise for Douglas after her win. After her historic victory, people began to criticise her for her hair. Yes, her hair.
“Fans” of Douglas took to Twitter saying her hair looked “unkempt” and that she was a bad representation for African-American women. Douglas didn’t let the criticism get to her, asking critics “what’s wrong with my hair?” She told the AP:
I’m like, ‘I just made history and people are focused on my hair?’ It can be bald or short, it doesn’t matter about (my) hair. Nothing is going to change. I’m going to wear my hair like this during beam and bar finals. You might as well just stop talking about it.
Hair criticism aside, being a black gymnast has never been easy for Douglas. In an interview on Oprah Winfrey’s “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” Douglas spoke about the racism she faced as one of the few black gymnasts competing in the sport. Douglas said that she was even called a “slave” by a fellow gymnast. “I definitely felt isolated. I felt, why am I deserving this? Is it because I’m black? Like, those thoughts would go through my mind,” Douglas told Oprah.
Douglas overcame these obstacles gracefully and rose to greatness during the last Olympics.
Since then, she’s been on a media whirlwind tour, and has received numerous accolades, including the title of Sportswoman of the Year from the Women’s Sports Foundation and a spot on Barbara Walters’ “The 10 Most Fascinating People” list.
Now she can’t wait to compete again. Douglas has said that she plans to compete in the next Olympic games in 2016—and she wants to win more gold.