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Gabby Douglas: First African-American Gymnast to Win as an Individual and Team


Before Simone Biles, there was Gabby Douglas. She hasn’t participated in competitive gymnastics since the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. Before her hiatus, she accomplished everything in the sport and even made history. The three-time Olympic medalist was the first African-American gymnast to win an individual and team gold medal at the same Olympic event. Let’s look back at her career.

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Gabby Douglas’ Background

Douglas’s journey in gymnastics began when she was six years old. She learned from her older sister, and by age four, she could do a perfect cartwheel. At the age of eight, she won a junior competition in her home state, Virginia. 

At 14, Douglas started working with a gymnast coach, Liang Chow, based in Iowa. Her family stayed back in Virginia, and she lived with a different family. Douglas found it hard to cope but persevered. 

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Gabby Douglas’s Junior Career

In 2008, Gabby Douglas participated in the US Classic and came 10th on her international debut. She went to the Visa Championships the same year but didn’t make the cut for the Junior Women’s National team. In 2009, Douglas was sidelined through injury.

The following year, she produced satisfactory performances at the Nastia Liukin SuperGirl Cup. She took fourth place and improved on that in her next event, the 2010 CoverGirl Classic. In this, she was third on the balance beam and sixth on the vault. 

Douglas was a silver medalist at the 2010 Junior National Championships and was part of the American team that won gold at the Pan American Championship in the same year.

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Senior Career

After her success at the junior level, Gabby Douglas stepped up to the professional scene in 2011. Her first event was the World Artistic Gymnastic Championship, in which she won a gold medal with Team USA.

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In 2012, Douglas booked her place in the USA’s gymnast team for the Olympics. She was the first African-American woman since Dominique Dawes in 2000 to form the team. 

Together with her teammates, Douglas won America’s first Olympic gold medal in gymnastics since the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. She also bagged the gold in the individual competition and became the first African-American woman to do so.

After a successful year, Douglas made a couple of changes and went back to training in 2014 after a break. In 2015, she competed in several events, including:

  • The U.S. Classic.
  • P&G Championships.
  • U.S. Women’s World Championships.
  • World Artistic Gymnastics Championships.

In 2016, she booked her spot in the Olympics and became the second gymnast Olympic gold medalist winner to make a consecutive appearance since Nadia Comaneci in 1980.

Together with the U.S. team, Douglas won another gold medal. Although her score of 61 was enough to compete in the individual format, a rule that only allowed two gymnasts per country prevented her from defending her title. Two of her teammates scored more points than her. 

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After the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Gabby Douglas stayed out of competitive gymnastics. In an Instagram post, the Olympic gold medalist explained that she needed to regain her joy for sport once more. She aims to be part of the American team that’ll represent the country at the 2024 Olympic Games in France. 

Gabby Douglas is one of America’s best gymnasts. She realizes she has a lot of work to do ahead of the Olympics. Do you think she’ll make the cut?

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