Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas Persevered In Spite of Bullying

Gabby Douglas, two-time Olympic gold medal gymnast shares with Oprah Winfrey that she was bullied by former teammates in her early training.

Gabby Douglas, the two-time gold medal gymnast, shared in a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey that she was bullied and taunted by former teammates in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She stated, “I was just, you know, kind of getting racist jokes, kind of being isolated from the group. So it was definitely hard. I would come home at night and just cry my eyes out. Like, what did I do to deserve this?'"

Gabby explained that, at age 14, she became so distraught that she wanted to give up gymnastics unless she could find a new place to train. Gabby left Virginia Beach and resumed her training in Des Moines, Iowa…and the rest is “Olympic history.”

Two years later, Gabby became the first African-American gymnast to win the individual all-around Olympic Gold!  Gabby’s inspiring message to kids is to never give up and keep pushing toward your dreams. 

Congratulations to Gabby Douglas for her exceptional Olympic achievements and her tough perseverance throughout her gymnastic training!


About the blogger: Judy S. Freedman, a licensed clinical social worker and bullying prevention specialist, is the author of Easing the Teasing – Helping Your Child Cope with Name-Calling, Ridicule, and Verbal Bullying. She lectures and conducts workshops for parents, educators, and mental health professionals throughout the country. Learn more about Judy and her work at www.easingtheteasing.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Gil Sharon August 28, 2012 at 03:54 PM
So how does Judy recommend handling bullying when moving half way across the country is not an option?
Judy S. Freedman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. August 28, 2012 at 05:15 PM
This is really a great question, Gil. Obviously, we don't know the details of how or if the situation was dealt with during the time Gabby states that she was victimized. (In fact, I am not certain if the alleged bullying was the only reason she left). Moving half way across the country is not a likely or possible alternative for most people! So what can be done? Kids who are targets or victims of bullying should report what is happening to a trusted adult. (Unfortunately, many are hesitant to do so). Parents should alert and report to teachers, coaches, or adults in charge what their kids are experiencing. In many instances, these behaviors are not on the radar screens of supervising adults. Fortunately, I am seeing that more and more school officials and recreational personnel are listening to and responding to such concerns rather than dismissing them. (Yet, we still have a long way to go in this area). If in fact, it is determined that bullying is occurring, steps to intervene and steps to prevent it should be taken. Bullying awareness discussions, including acceptance of differences and empathy training, among kids is a powerful 1st step. Consequences for such behaviors should also be discussed. There is no question that kids need to feel physically and emotionally safe in school or in other activities. If they are not feeling safe, the adults need to know!
McCloud August 28, 2012 at 07:59 PM
I'm sorry, might have missed it, Gabby is African American, good for her! African Americans seem to be making progress, according to the way they write about her.
Joanna Schneider August 28, 2012 at 09:15 PM
@Judy, thanks for sharing your insight. Couldn't agree more that awareness discussions are a critical first step. Glad to see conversation going here! For anyone who has felt bullied, do you have coping tips to share?
McCloud August 28, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Judy, I lost my commom sense some 10 years ago, thanks for the great insight.
Judy S. Freedman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. August 28, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Steve, I also read that Gabby's interview sparked some controversy. I am sure we will hear more. Thanks for sharing the link.
Conrad August 28, 2012 at 11:35 PM
Mr.McCloud, was there something you wanted to contribute? I didn't think so.
McCloud August 28, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Joanna Schneider August 28, 2012 at 11:52 PM
@Conrad, @McCloud, let's try to keep these comment discussions constructive. There's no value in personal attacks, especially on a blog re: bullying. We appreciate your involvement and engagement with the site, and look forward to insightful comments, concerns and questions moving forward.
Joanna Schneider August 28, 2012 at 11:53 PM
@Judy, will you please keep us posted as this story develops?
John Brinkmann August 31, 2012 at 02:37 AM
bully for you Joanna!!!---well stated
Joanna Schneider August 31, 2012 at 03:51 AM
@John, thanks! We like to keep things moving in a constructive direction around here...
Melanie September 04, 2012 at 01:36 PM
When I was a young child, I was much, much smaller than my peers and was often mistaken for being at least 5 years younger than I was. Many of my classmates took this opportunity to take advantage of me by bullying me. Parents need to talk with their children about this issue and explain the importance of treating their fellow classmates with respect as we have done with our own children. We even taught them to go and stand by other kids that are picked on. When my youngest child was being bullied in elementary school. We informed the teacher about what was occurring, and nothing was done and it continued. Finally, our son came home one day crying and upset that this "bully" would not stop picking on him and the other children. I was so upset, that I told him that the next time he hits you, you hit him back and shout at him to leave you alone. He said. "But mom, you told us not to hit", and I said well forget about that, you need to defend yourself! The next day when the bully approached him and tried to hit him, my son punched him in the chest and shouted at him to never hit him again. My son told me that this bully was shocked and ran to get on the school bus. That evening, when I spoke to my son about his day, he was so elated and it seemed as if a heavy weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
Melanie September 04, 2012 at 01:37 PM
When he went to school the next day, the bully ran up to him and asked if they could be friends. That bully never bullied him or the other kids again and they got along just fine. I still feel bad that we had to handle it that way, but it worked!


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