One person's thoughts may change the world
This young lady is huge. Big, gigantic, large in stature, big like Americans like everything, sort of like a super-sized mega-meal from a fast food restaurant. Big like the Hoover Dam. Huge like the Empire State Building. Soaring like an eagle. All 4 foot 11″ of her. Her name is Gabrielle Douglass, and she is an Olympic Gold Medal champion, in all around competition and in team competition. She’s big because of what she’s accomplished, what she’s achieved, and how she did it.
Seemingly coming out of nowhere, she became the news item of gymnastics and the world. Gymnast seem to do that, because of their size, yet the largeness of the stage they operate on, especially if you are 16. Amazingly, this may be her first and last Olympics, considering how intense these young ladies have to train. In four years, her body will change, her constant working out at this high level has probably delayed some aspect of puberty for her. In four years, she will be a full-grown woman, and in four years, that’s a toll on such a powerful yet fragile body. We will see but you can’t deny her, she has brought an energy to the Olympics we have not seen in a while, or perhaps not in four years.
First of all, NBC finally has gotten it right, they also include who are behind such fantastic athletes, and those are the parents. The parents who drive to practice, cook and prepare meals, mentor, coach, and at times, give them the mental push when they need it. Her mother made a good point, I’m paraphrasing but she said, “She was always pushing herself, trying something new, jumping around flipping. I then new I needed to get her some training so that she could learn how to do it the right way, and not hurt herself”. Now that was a profound statement. Taking an active kids and giving them a gift to expand and achieve instead of putting them on Ritalin. One of my favorite lines while training my sons are, “Your training has to have more mental focus at times than when you’re playing a game. The bar is just metal, and can’t move you, yet you can move the bar if you have the mental focus to do it”. It’s not all physical, it’s mental.
Gabby Douglas represents the innocent America we all want to be. Hard working, focused, unselfish, beautiful, and capitalizing on opportunity when presented with it. When I say beautiful, it’s not just her pretty face, but it’s her charm, her being, her “Gabby”. In one brief instance, Gabby pulled together America like no war or national tragedy can.
When the Colorado theater shooting occurred, America paused for a minute. The candidate and the President of the United States paused for a moment, addressing the nation. We all mourned. But that following Monday, it was on again. Going toe to toe, all the political bickering and fighting again.
Gabby’s accomplishments will be different, and lay the groundwork of new territory forever. Our comments about her and what she did will resonate with time and go in to the annals of history. Her 16-year-old smile will stay in our minds forever. She has given us an American moment that may last more than 30 seconds.
An American moment because maybe we have gotten past some of our previous transgressions. Jessie Owens came back to a segregated America, Gabby won’t. Cassius Clay threw is medal into the river in protest of a segregated American, while Gabby will celebrate hers. Gabby stood proud while listening to the anthem played to the arena ( as have so many other Black Americans ), while Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists and shoeless ( the black socks represented black poverty) in a gesture of “human rights salute”.
Gabby can just be Gabby. And I’m glad she’s black. That’s right I said it, glad. She’s done something so powerful that it reminds us of all of our freedoms. She worked hard, she persevered through competition, and she won. She wasn’t trying to win for black people, but for herself and her country. At 16, you have no political agenda, it’s school work and training 8 to 10 hours a day for her, she was focused. Just like Rosa Parks. Rosa took a seat because she was tired, not because she wanted to start the Civil Rights moment and the Montgomery bus boycotts. Which leads me to another athlete I grew attached to in the 1988 Olympics. Anthony Nesty. Now you might say who is that?
Anthony Nesty, was a “black” swimmer who obtained a gold metal in the 1988 Olympics. I enjoyed watching his progress, and although he wasn’t from the United States, he trained and attended the University of Florida, and won the Gold in the butterfly stroke competition. I referred to him as the “brotha from Suriname” when I described his achievements to my friends who didn’t see his efforts. But he was from Suriname.
I liken Gabby to another great Olympian, Rafer Johnson. Rafer was his class President at UCLA in 1955. Battling injury he placed second in the decathlon in 1956. He got the gold in the Decathlon in 1960. He did all that and more before I was even born. Rafer Johnson did all of that just before the Civil Rights moment.
You might say they have nothing to do with each other, and you’re right, they don’t. But it was great performances like his, Jesse Owens, Eddie Tolan, Ralf Medcalf, Wilma Rudolph, Wyomia Tyus who paved the way for Gabby to be Gabby, and for America to celebrate her as a true American. You see those fore mentioned athletes had to perform at the highest level despite the negative conditions around them, and they still performed at the highest level.
Gabby doesn’t have to do all of that. She doesn’t have any of those burdens. Gabby stole the show. Gabby can just be Gabby! I hope she will become the face of the 2012 Olympics. And when her box of Wheaties comes out, I’m buying it.