(Courtesy of ESPNW.com) 16-year old Gabrielle Douglas became the first woman of color to win the all-around gymnastics Olympic gold Thursday evening in London
We all have one younger cousin in our family who is exceptionally talented, a prodigy with the potential to do great things and we feel a certain responsibility to protect them from negative energy and keep them on the right path, the path to greatness.
With or without our help, 16-year old Gabrielle Douglas made history yesterday in the 30th Olympiad, become the first woman of color to win the all-around gymnastics gold medal, drawing comparisons to the great Dominique Dawes and rightfully stepping out into the spotlight on her own.
Gabby’s confident, flawless routines and contagious smile won the hearts of many, even if some negative comments were made about her hair and the mainstream media still focused on her (not surprisingly) lighter-skinned teammates Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman. Negativity aside, the remarkable journey of this young lady from Hampton Roads, Va. to jolly old England should serve as an inspiration for children and adults alike.
Encouraged by her older sister Arielle to give gymnastics a try, Gabby started placing in events and winning medals after moving to Des Moines, Iowa to learn from and be trained by Liang Chow, who was in charge of Shawn Johnson’s gold medal run in the Beijing Games in 2008.
She eventually earned a spot on this Olympic team and took London by storm, earning the lion’s share of the points to the help the U.S. team win the team championship in a runaway. However, she took center stage Thursday night with near-perfect poise on the balance beam, uneven bars, vaulting and a dynamite floor routine that had the staid British crowd clapping in unison as she leaped and flipped with grace and confidence uncommon in most kids her age.
As Gabrielle embraced Chow and her mom Natalie shed tears of joy when the final scores came through, I got the sense that we were watching something special, something more than just gymnastics. No one will ever mistake gymnastics for the great American pastime, but the beauty of individual sports remains, especially when a young woman who’s put in the time, the effort and the hustle to make her dreams come true thrives in the moment.
I can honestly say I’m not Black America’s spokesman, but I can’t help but think ESPN.com columnist Jemele Hill’s hilarious but true assertion that Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington reminded many of us of an uncle that we all have in our family, thus giving him the nickname “Uncle Ron.”
Gabrielle Douglas is similar in the way of that younger cousin you want to do well and you can see them doing well, it’s just up to us to support them. When a young black girl makes history on a world stage, it is our sworn duty to be proud of her success and root her on.
So congratulations, Cousin Gabby. You made a lot of people very proud.