Today, Wednesday, February 7, is National Girls and Women in Sports Day! What better way to celebrate this day than by highlighting a woman of faith and flips, Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas?
Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on December 31, 1995. She is the daughter of Timothy Douglas and Natalie Hawkins. She also has three siblings (two sisters and one brother).
Her journey to becoming a world-famous gymnast began with the influence of her siblings. They asked for Gabby to be put in gymnastics after she perfected a handstand technique her sister Arielle taught her.
A few years later, Douglas started taking gymnastics classes and was named Virginia State Gymnastics Champion when she was eight.
Along with helping strengthen her natural abilities, Natalie taught her daughter values that make her a grounded woman of faith.
Deuteronomy 6:7-9 urges parents to teach scripture to their children, make them visible in the home, and include them in conversations (New International Version).
This scripture manifests in the Douglas household as they chose to attend a Pentecostal Church and uphold Jewish principles.
Along with essential teachings of the Christian faith, Gabby also understands the significance of keeping the Sabbath and loves the taste of matzo ball soup.
Romans 14:5-6 and Colossians 2:16-17 permit believers to observe Jewish holidays and dietary guidelines based on their convictions.
Regular family Bible studies and prayer were also foundational in Douglas’s upbringing. Prayer became an instrumental part of Douglas’s life when she had a mysterious illness as an infant.
Unable to pay for a doctor’s visit, Douglas’ mother interceded on her behalf daily until she was healed. James 5:14-15 endorses this form of prayer as believers must pray for the sick so they may experience healing.
Douglas applies this principle to her professional career as she declares Isaiah 53:5 when dealing with an injury.
Health issues are not the only time Douglas depends on intercession. Cameras captured her talking to herself several times before an event.
Douglas is proud to profess she is not talking to herself but to God. She even has the Hebrew word for God (Elohim) on her leotard.
Douglas is a prime example of what it means to be unashamed of the Lord as she strives to be a light in the world, a city on a hill that cannot hide (Matthew 5:14, New King James Version).
Trusting God Through Trials
Unfortunately, no matter how much this woman of faith strives to be light, everyone faces dark moments. For Gabby Douglas, darkness came in a variety of ways.
During her childhood, Douglas and her family endured hardships such as living in a van and not having enough money for food.
Life was also challenging in the gym in two aspects. Spiritually, Douglas struggled as a preteen because she felt abandoned by God when she did not win a competition.
Gabby’s mother used the moment to encourage her to trust God because He has a plan for her despite her shortcomings.
Socially, Douglas also had to lean on her faith as she was being bullied by teammates, isolated by coaches, criticized by spectators for her hairstyle and sexually abused by Larry Nasar.
The trauma she endured in pursuit of greatness reminds me of the biblical figure Joesph. He faced many trials before he fulfilled the vision God gave him (Genesis 37:1-42:7).
Glorifying God in Triumphs
Similar to Joseph, Douglas understands what others mean for evil God means for good (Genesis 50:20). In 2016, Douglas joined an anti-cyberbullying campaign to combat the harassment she endured.
The trauma and shortcomings experienced in her career also worked for her good. She acknowledges that it was the favor of God that enabled her to earn a host of accolades including:
- being the first black woman to win the individual all-around title in the 2012 London Olympics.
- becoming the first American to win gold in both the individual all-around and team titles.
- becoming the author of two books within a year of her historic moment.
- producing and acting in “The Gabby Douglas Story” movie with LifeTime.
Her Controversial Hiatus
A Storm Leads to a New Season
After more success in the 2016 Olympics, Douglas took a six-year hiatus from gymnastics. The break occurred due to controversy about the sport’s toxic culture and a social media comment.
In the comment, Douglas said, “women should dress modestly to avoid enticing the wrong crowd.” The comment was insensitive to teammates who were sexual abuse victims because it appeared as though she was blaming them for what happened.
Douglas apologized for how her words affected her teammates and admitted she too was a victim of sexual abuse (as mentioned in the previous section).
While this incident somewhat tarnished her public image, she still should be celebrated as a woman of faith. The reason is that no one is perfect and she acknowledged her transgression (Proverbs 19:4).
The controversy and the toll of being a gymnast led her to take a six-year hiatus from competition. Ecclesiastes 3:1 teaches there is a season for every activity.
For Douglas, 2017-2023 was a season to pursue a career as an actor and producer.
A Woman of Faith Reemerges
While acting allows the public to see her as more than an athlete, she has not lost passion for her first love.
Douglas will be making her return to competition in the 2024 Olympics. This is a joyous occasion for fans who believe, look up to, and have cheered her on throughout her career.
However, some critics doubt her ability to compete at a high level due to her age. Others want her to fail because they are jealous of her success.
However, this woman of faith understands there is nothing too hard for Eliohim as He can use anyone, at any age, to accomplish anything (Genesis 18:14).
Regardless of the outcome, Douglas is already a winner because she keeps God first, works hard, and remains humble every step of the way.
“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30 New King James Version).