After placing seventh out of eight opponents on uneven bars, this was a down-note ending to an Olympic experience where Gabby Douglas coped with criticism that was significant on social media for her perceived lack of enthusiasm and even patriotism. Gabby Douglas had to fight back tears.
She felt she hadn’t performed to her exact expectations but she believed she was misunderstood by television viewers back in the States. She claimed she never meant to offend. She shook off ideas that forgetting to put her hand on her heart during the national anthem was indicative of anything or that she didn’t root tough enough for her teammates.
It was a tough moment for the 20-year-old – a real time, real-life look into the cauldron of pressure young athletes, especially gymnasts, deal with.
“It was hurtful,” Douglas said.
Vulnerability, tears and her words went viral and then a funny thing happened: The social media sites known for being unkind, sometimes rooted in racism, rallied to her defense.
#LOVE4GABBYUSA trended for days, powered by everyday fans on Twitter but also a slew of stars. What was ugly, was uplifting.
Douglas said Thursday that she’s remained off social media, as she promised she would, but friends and family have alerted her to the outpouring.
“Yeah, I learned about that,” Douglas told Yahoo Sports. “And for me that means so much understanding where there is hate, love is more. And that is so encouraging to me. Lots of folks supported me and got behind the situation. It’s awesome.”
Douglas was talking from the rooftop lounge of the USA House, a social gathering area for lovers, families and American Olympians. It offered a sweeping view of Ipanema Beach across the road and Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance. It’s the type of touch shots that Rio postcards are made from.
Gabby leaves Saturday, so her time to enjoy town is limited. That’s the life of a competition here.
She was a star in the 2012 London Games, where she won a team and an all around gold. Adding team gold in 2016, running her medal count to three, should’ve been enough.
For Douglas, it wasn’t. She desired to make all around finals but completed behind Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, who went gold-silver, as the third American. She needed to be a larger factor on the team, but was relegated to just one event. She didn’t live up to her own standards, pubs, and qualified for only one event final. She was frustrated.
“In my head I’d envisioned it a little bit different,” Douglas said after her performance. “I think everybody does. You want to picture yourself on doing those routines and on top the podium and being awesome.”
A third gold is three every other person on the face of the world has never won. And no matter the intensity she occasionally shows, she’s enjoyed nearly every moment of being in two Games.
“It was merely pretty amazing to be back in the Games,” she said. “The competition is unbelievable.”
There’s an USA Gymnastics tour. Afterward she planned some downtime back at her house in LA, hanging with her dogs. Her future in competitive gymnastics is not likely. This is almost surely her final Olympics … well, Summer Olympics.
“Join figure skating. …”
She was laughing. Her buffs had rallied behind her and lifted her. Gabby’s expertise had shown a tremendous conversation starter about the challenges of modern life in the spotlight. There was great that came from it.
The stress of competition was gone. Some friends and her mom were waiting for her. The waves of the South Atlantic were crashing across the well-known shore down below.
Gabby Douglas’ Olympics finished just fine.