In her newly released memoir, Grace, Gold & Glory, Olympic gold-winning gymnast, Gabby Douglas, reveals that in the seven months prior to her Olympic triumph, the fifteen-year-old told her family that she was going to quit gymnastics and work at a fast food restaurant. She wrote “I can get a job at Chick-Fil-A in Virginia Beach and live off the 14-grand I just won at World Championships.”
For Gabby, the road to Olympic gold was paved with heartache and separation from her family when she moved from Virginia Beach, VA to live with a white family in Iowa so that she could train under Liang Chow, the noted coach who got her to the Olympics. “I just want to be a normal teenage kid,” she wrote.
In addition to being homesick, Gabby was worn down by a grueling training regimen, not to mention the racism she encountered along the way to success as the first African American gymnast to win the all-around gold medal. Click here to read about her historic performance in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
“Grace, Gold & Glory” shows the close relationship between Gabby and her mother and siblings. Her mom, Natalie Hawkins, had supported the family on her own while Gabby’s dad, Air Force Staff Sgt. Timothy Douglas, was serving abroad with the Air National Guard in Afghanistan. Gabby also shares that, for the most part, her dad had been absent from her life since 2001 and that she was very hurt by this and that the distance between them only widened as she achieved her Olympic dreams.
Fortunately, Gabby’s mother and sister, Joyelle, and especially her older brother, John, talked her out of quitting, and she ultimately went on to make Olympic history. Her situation brings to mind a valuable life lesson found in the words of encouragement expressed in this timeless, inspirational poem:
When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh.
When care is pressing you down a bit.
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns
As every one of us sometimes learns.
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out:
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow –
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out –
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt.
And you never can tell how close you are.
It may be near when it seems so far:
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.