Even being an Olympic gold medalist doesn’t make you safe from Internet trolls, just ask Gabby Douglas.
The 20-year-old gymnast has been the target of Internet bullying and intense slander on social media since the “Final Five” started competing in Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games. Her mother, Natalie Hawkins, spoke to Reuters to discuss the controversy surrounding her daughter’s demeanor.
“What I saw in the stands was someone who was hurting and she was also angry,” she said. “What was going through her head was ‘I’m being attacked for everything I do so I might as well not do anything. Because no matter what I do, I am being attacked.'”
Last week, Douglas came under fire for not putting her hand over her heart during the National Anthem while she and her teammates won gold in the team competition. Later on, she was called out for looking less than enthused for teammates Simone Biles and Aly Raisman as they won the the all-around gold and silver, respectively.
“I tried to stay off the Internet because there’s just so much negativity,” she said. “Either it was about my hair or my hand not over my heart or I look depressed. It was hurtful. It was hurtful. It was. It’s been kind of a lot to deal with.”
This isn’t the first time Douglas has had to deal with Internet hate. When she won all-around gold in London at the 2012 Olympics, it seemed like most people could only focus on her hairstyle.
“She’s had to deal with people criticizing her hair, or people accusing her of bleaching her skin. They said she had breast enhancements, they said she wasn’t smiling enough, she’s unpatriotic,” her mother continued. “Then it went to not supporting your team mates. Now you’re “Crabby Gabby.” “You name it and she got trampled. What did she ever do to anyone?”
Although it’s been extremely hard, Gabby just wants to find the positive light in her second, and likely last, Olympic experience.
“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 said. “Are you going to stand or are you going to crumble? I have no regrets coming back for a second Olympic team. It’s been an amazing experience. It’s been teaching me a lot.”
There have been some kind souls on the Internet, however, who have been garnering support for the athlete. The hashtag #LOVE4GABBYUSA began trending on Twitter on Monday (Aug. 15).
So is Gabby Douglas supposed to be out there with a finger roll and deep body waves as she literally flys in the air pic.twitter.com/6ZTFZhE15Z
— MistyKnightsTwistOut (@Steph_I_Will) August 15, 2016
— Denzel (@DenzAnton_) August 15, 2016
— Terry Smith (@owg6973) August 15, 2016
— Danielle Ricks (@daniellericks) August 15, 2016