Gabby Douglas just added to Olympics – and American – history. At sixteen years of age, competing in the Olympic Games for the first time, she has won two gold medals in women's gymnastics, one as a member of the American team in the team championship event, and one for individual all-round best. She is the first African-American gymnast to win the individual gold.
“You just have to not be afraid and go out there and just dominate,” Douglas said afterward, a stuffed Olympic mascot under one arm, a bouquet of flowers in one hand and an Olympic gold medal around her neck. “You have to go out there and be a beast. Because if you don’t, you’re not going to be on the top." (as reported in The Washington Post)
The article was posted online, and there were many comments. As usual, some were thoughtful, some were hateful, some congratulatory. Many were political. This one, though, caught my attention:
"The press really ought to avoid quoting athletes when their comments are dumb. 'You just have to not be afraid and go out there and just dominate.' Really, is that all it takes? Who expects wisdom from a short young naive gymnast with no life experience outside of training and competition. The girl's a great gymnast, but she's not a top notch thinker, and really she's not an inspiration to anyone."
Really? She inspires me. Not just because she defies gravity – for her, gravity seems to be more of a suggestion than the law – but because, at sixteen, she already knows something it took me years to finally master. She is not afraid to excel. She does not seem to fret about the consequences of being great. WIth that foundation, she will probably never worry, while receiving a standing ovation, about how she will have to pay for having been singled out for extra attention and praise. I do not envy the excellence of others. I celebrate it. I wish I had not learned (and had to unlearn) to be afraid of my own.
So congratulations, Gabby. May you savor your every triumph. And may there be many more of them.