The Gabby Douglas Story


By Teryl Warren

Sitting down to talk with a two-time Olympic Gold Medal-winner can be a bit intimidating. After all, they have accomplished something that only about .000332% of the US population will ever experience.  But when that two-time Olympic Gold Medal-winner is U.S. gymnast Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas, the conversation quickly moves to mall outings and sleepovers and you soon realize that, despite her historical victories, you’re actually chatting with the girl next door.

We caught up with Gabby just prior to the premiere of the Lifetime Original Movie The Gabby Douglas Story, and she expounded on much of the events depicted in the film.

“I never thought a movie about my life story would come out,” Gabby said. “But when [filmmakers] approached my mom, we talked about it and we immediately said ‘yes.’”

In the film, Gabby’s mother is portrayed by much-revered actress Regina King – whose performance Gabby gave a resoundingly favorable review.

“[Regina] is amazing.  She’s such a doll and she played my Mom so well, my siblings and I joked with my Mom and said ‘She played you better than you!’”

Photo by Allen Fraser

Starring SAG Award® nominated actress Regina King (Southland), Golden Globe® and Emmy® winner S. Epatha Merkerson (Law & Order), Imani Hakim (Everybody Hates Chris), Sydney Mikayla (Whitney) and Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas, the film tells the inspiring true story of the international gymnastics phenomenon who overcame overwhelming odds to become the first African American ever to be named Individual All-Around Champion in artistic gymnastics at the Olympic Games.

S. Epatha Merkerson and Regina King - Photo by Joseph Viles

A prodigy from a very young age, Gabby Douglas originally made her mark on the world of competitive gymnastics at age eight.  She won numerous state championship titles in her age group throughout her early competitive career.  While her star was fast rising in the arena, Gabby and her family faced economic challenges at home and she made the difficult decision to leave her mother Natalie (King), three siblings and grandmother (Merkerson) in Virginia Beach and move to Des Moines, Iowa, to train with renowned coach Liang Chow (Brian Tee, The Wolverine) to pursue her dream of Olympic glory.  Buoyed by her early success, dedication and unyielding love from her family, Gabby made it onto the 2012 U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team, setting the stage for triumph shortly thereafter at the London Olympic Games.  Her sacrifice and perseverance were triumphantly rewarded with Team Competition and Individual All-Around gold medals, placing Gabby and her teammates – known as “The Fierce Five” — among the world’s all-time greats in gymnastics.

The Gabby Douglas Story was produced by Sony Pictures Television in association with Braun Entertainment.  Zev Braun and Philip Krupp (A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story) served as executive producers, with David Rosemont (Bonnie & Clyde) producing.  Gregg Champion (The Cowboy Way, Amish Grace) directed from a script written by Maria Nation (The Two Mr. Kissels).

Photo by: Allen Fraser

While several themes typical to sports films such as overcoming adversity, competition and determination are prevalent in the film, audiences will also leave with a strong sense of the commitment shared by Gabrielle Douglas, her mother and her siblings that ultimately made her Olympic dreams come true.

From infancy, the Douglas family rallied around Gabrielle as she fought to overcome a rare blood disease. And after a brief period of homelessness, they worked together to rebuild their lives under the loving guidance of a single mother who struggled to support 4 children while battling debilitating migraine headaches.

“My family and I wanted to share our story because we want people to see that things are possible,” she shared. “I went through struggles and some things that were very difficult, but I want people to know that they can overcome the difficult things.”

And while Gabrielle may have  been standing atop that podium in London alone, she is quick to give recognition to the loving family who made her historical moment possible.

“Six months before the Olympics, I wanted to quit. I wanted to just get a job at Chic Fil-A or do another sport, but my family pushed me to keep going and to keep pushing through,” she confided.  “It’s great having people around you who believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself”

Since the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, Gabrielle Douglas has enjoyed a constant stream of media attention.  Yet, astonishingly, she admits that the magnitude of her achievements still has yet to fully sink in.

“When I was at the Olympics, a lot of people said it wouldn’t sink in until I got back home,” she said. “But I think it will really sink in when I’m a little bit older and I see the impact that’s really been  made.  For now, I just hope people will look at my story and become inspired and motivated in their own lives.  I want them to think ‘If she can do it, then I can do it.’ I just want to encourage everyone to go after their dreams, achieve their goals and don’t let anyone stop you.”

From books to a biopic and even a stint as a correspondent for Inside Edition at Super Bowl XLVIII, this golden girl is on fire and shows no signs of slowing down.  While rumors of a possible appearance on “Dancing with the Stars abound, Gabby was quick to point out that she’s got her sights firmly set on the Olympics.

“I’ll be watching the Winter Olympics in Sochi. I like the figure skating competitions.”

Um, yeah, but aren’t there some other  Olympics coming around the corner soon, as well?

“Right now, I’m focused on training. I train 6 days a week on  all four events. I spend about 4-6 hours in the gym and I take Sundays off.  Making it to the Olympics in Rio in 2016 – that’s the main goal.”

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