Gabrielle “Gabby” Christina Victoria Douglas was born on December 31, 1995 to parents Timothy Douglas and Natalie Hawkins in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Gabby’s first foray into gymnastics was when at the tender age of 3, her older sister Arielle helped her perfect how to perform a “straight cartwheel.” At six years old Gabby began her formal training and in just two years’ time she had won a Virginia State Championship. By 2010 Gabby had moved from Virginia to Des Moines, Iowa to train with renowned gymnastics coach Liang Chow. Douglas was home-schooled during her tenure in Iowa by the Parton family with whom she grew very close to. Gabby’s penchant for learning advanced gymnastics techniques made her a pleasure to teach and a dynamo amongst her peers. In 2010 Gabby made her national debut in a televised meet in Massachusetts at the Nastia Liukin Super-Girl Cup where she placed fourth overall; an impressive debut for the 14-year old. Her success at the Super-Girl Cup vaulted her to other high-profile events like the Cover Girl Classic, the Pan American Championships and the 2010 U.S. Junior National Championships. Her performance at these events garnered her a shelf full of medals but Gabby had her sights on bigger things.
While competing at the 2012 U.S. National Championships Gabby won the gold uneven bars and earned the nickname “The Flying Squirrel” from the USA Gymnastics National Team Coordinator Marta Karolyi. Upon winning a spot on the 2012 Olympic team, Gabby’s star was on the rise as she became part of the “Fierce Five” of the U.S. gymnastics team. Filling out the five along with Gabby was McKayla Marone, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and Jordyn Wieber. Gabby went on to become the first African-American (or any woman of color) woman to win the gold medal in the “Individual All-Around” event. In addition to that historic accomplishment, Gabby became the first American gymnast ever to win both the team and individual all-around gold at the same Olympics.
Gabby’s breakout performance at the 2012 Olympics made her a sports icon and media superstar. The then 16-year old graced the covers of Time Magazine and Special Edition boxes of Corn Flakes and was quickly becoming a media darling. Besides working the talk show circuit after returning from the London games, Gabby discussed with Oprah Winfrey her own experience with racism in the predominantly white field of gymnastics. After an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno along with First Lady Michelle Obama, Gabby became an integral part of the Obama ’12 campaign appearing at rallies later in 2012. By the holiday season of 2012 Gabby had released a motivating autobiography entitled Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith that went on to become a New York Times Bestseller. Gabby’s maturity and All-American personality along with her media savvy have made her a true hero and inspiration to kids and adults alike. At just 4 feet 11 inches, “The Flying Squirrel” is casting a long shadow and is just getting started.