Gabby Douglas is leaving the Rio Olympics with her third overall gold medal, but the gymnast’s Olympic return has been marred with brutal criticism and bullies attacking her on social media.
The now 20-year-old Douglas dominated at the 2012 Olympics when she became the first American to win golds in the team and all-around events.
As a member of the Final Five this year, she won another gold in the team final. But following the win, she was called “unpatriotic” for not placing her hand on her heart while the National Anthem played.
Though she had the third highest score out of the 61 qualifying gymnasts, she missed out on competing in the all-around final due to a rule that only allows two participants from the same country to compete in any final event.
As she clapped for her teammates Simone Biles and Aly Raisman — who won gold and silver in the all-around respectively — she was blasted on social media for not standing up and cheering.
Douglas said it’s rough dealing with the hurtful and sometimes racist comments people spew on the Internet.
“When they talk about my hair or me not putting my hand on my heart of me being very salty in the stands, they’re really criticising me,” Douglas told reporters on Sunday. “It doesn’t really feel good. It was a little bit hurtful.”
She apologised for reacting the way she did, even though she really shouldn’t have to.
“Everything I’ve gone through has been a lot this time around, and I apologise if [I seemed] really mad in the stands,” she said. “I wasn’t. I was supporting Aly. And I always will 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 that I wasn’t showing it.”
Raisman came to her defence on Instagram saying that all of the teammates were incredibly supportive.
“I still love them,” Douglas added. “I still love the people who love me. Still love them who hate me. I’m just going to stand on that.”
Despite the negativity, Douglas said she doesn’t regret competing in what could be her final Olympics.
“For me, when you go through a lot, and you have so many difficulties and people against you sometimes, it kind of just determines your character,” she continued. “Are you going to stand, or are you going to crumble? In the face of everything, still stand. I have no regrets coming back for a second Olympics. It’s been an amazing experience.”
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