Gabby Douglas Tells Oprah: "I Was Bullied," Called "Slave" by Gymnasts in Virginia During Early Training
She's one of the most celebrated athletes to come out of the recently concluded London Olympics, but Gabby Douglas languished and suffered as a young gymnast in her native Virginia Beach, Virginia -- where she was taunted by fellow gymnasts, sometimes even with racial slurs.
Now 16 and in possession of two gold medals, Douglas (with mom Natalie Hawkins) told Oprah Winfrey on Sunday's Oprah's Next Chapter about the less-than-ideal atmosphere at a local gym. "One of my teammates was like, 'Can you scrape the bar?' And they were like, 'Why doesn't Gabby do it, she's our slave?'"
"I definitely felt isolated, I felt why am I deserving this? Is it because I'm black? Those thoughts would go through my mind," said the champ, who became the first-ever African-American to win the coveted All-Around trophy. The teasing got so bad that, at age 14, Douglas threatened to quit the sport altogether if they couldn't move away and find a new coach.
"I felt like I was bullied and isolated from the group, and they treated me not how they would treat the other teammates," Douglas admitted.
Indeed, Douglas eventually did move to Des Moines, Iowa, in order to train at Liang Chow's gym, where fellow Olympic champ Shawn Johnson trained.
Winfrey visited with Douglas at the famed facility -- and tried out the balance beam routine!