The “Flying Squirrel” has earned herself a new name — Olympic champion.
Gabby Douglas, 16, made history Thursday when the U.S. Olympic gymnast won the gold medal in the women’s all-around final competition. She became the first African-American to win the top prize.
“Someone mentioned that I was the first black American (to win the all-around gold), and I said, ‘Oh yeah, I forgot about that!’ I feel so honored,” she told reporters via The Associated Press after her win.
Gabby was raised in Virginia and began training at the age of 6. When she was 9, her father, Air Force Staff Sgt. Timothy Douglas, went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I just had to pray to God just to keep him safe and tell the angels to keep my dad safe and come home,” she recently explained to NBC Nightly News of her father being away.
After having to miss many of her competitions, Gabby’s father was able to attend her U.S. Olympic trials on June 29. It was the first time he had seen his daughter for the first time since October 2010, according to USA Today. Holding an American flag with “Go Gabby Douglas, Love, Dad” on the front, Gabby was thrilled to see her dad in the stands.
“I’m like, ‘Who’s calling my name?’ And then I look up. It was my dad and his friend, and I haven’t seen him in a while,” Gabby explained. “They were holding up the flag. And I almost felt like bawling. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, Dad!”
“I just missed her so much,” Timothy said at the trials. “It’s just so thrilling what’s going on.”
Her parents have separated and are in the process of a divorce, but both supported their daughter’s Olympic dreams and made sacrifices to pay for her expensive training and travel. While Timothy didn’t appear to have been able to attend the London Games to see his daughter win the gold, her mother Natalie Hawkins was there every step of the way.
“I’m so happy for her, so thrilled,” Natalie said. “I love her and I’m so proud of her.”
On Thursday, Gabby went into the Games knowing it would be a good day — thanks, in part, to her mother. She texted her mom, “It’s raining outside, mom. Do you know what that means?” Natalie had always told her that rain was a sign of God’s will and it meant it was going to be a great day.
“I hope that I inspire people. I want to inspire people,” Gabby said of her win. “My mother said you can inspire a nation.”
For access to all our exclusive celebrity videos and interviews – Subscribe on Youtube!