While Simone Biles may be all the rave in Rio, at the last Olympic games in London, you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing Gabby Douglas’ dazzling smile or hearing about her absolute dominance in gymnastics.
She led Team USA to gold in 2012 and also became the first African American to win the individual all-around competition.
When asked how it felt, she replied, “It is everything I thought it would be; being the Olympic champion, it definitely is an amazing feeling. And I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to him and the blessings fall down on me. Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things He does for me.”
After making history in London and coming back to steal another team gold in Rio, it’s hard to believe that we almost never got to see Gabby on the worldwide stage at all.
In her memoir, Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith, she wrote that she actually wanted to quit just seven months before the 2012 Olympics and go back home to Virginia Beach to work at Chick-fil-A.
“No one knew that about me, but yeah, I wanted to quit and try a different sport like track and field,” she told Christianity Today. “I was really homesick and wanted to go home.”
When asked what changed her mind, she replied, “My mom, my coach, my sister, my host family—everyone told me to keep fighting, that the Olympics were right around the corner. And my brother, John. He and I are so close in age, we are like two peas in a pod. He kept telling me to keep fighting and pushing along. A couple days later, I went back to the gym and was on fire. I was just determined to get back and give 100 percent.”
And that’s exactly what she did as she took the world of gymnastics by storm with her newfound fiery confidence. For Gabby, winning gold is great, but she’s learned to equally praise God even when she loses.
In her book, she writes of a time when she lost in the 2011 Visa Championships, and it taught her a lot about giving glory to God even amidst her failures.
“After the 2011 Visa Championships, I fell five times in the competition, and I told my mom, ‘I don’t get it. Why didn’t God answer my prayer?'” said Gabby. “Now I realize that even if I don’t win, I am still blessed to be given this talent to be able to compete. It’s all about perspective. It’s been my mom’s advice: Even if you don’t win, you are still a fighter, you are still a champion. It motivated me when I was down, to get back into the gym and be on fire.”
This powerful statement in response to winning the 2012 all-around gold has definitely become her signature quote: “I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to him and the blessings fall down on me.”
When asked by Christianity Today if it was pre-crafted, she said, “It means so much to me, it gives me chills when you repeat it. I thought I could put together all those Scriptures that my mom kept sending me and that I kept reading, and God gave me that quote to say, because it is true: God gave me this amazing talent, and of course I want to represent him.”
From homelessness to an absentee father, Gabby has certainly seen her fair share of trials over the years, but it’s her faith that fuels her to persevere through it all.
She says it’s been a “lifelong thing” that started when her mom introduced her to Christ as a young girl, and now she takes her Bible (sometimes two) with her everywhere she travels to remind her where her strength comes from.
“I’ve watched myself at the Olympics, I watched the all-around finals, my grandfather DVR’ed it, and I saw my mouth moving—that was me praying,” said Gabby.
“I always pray at every competition, when the judge’s hand goes up I am praying, and there are little Scriptures I like to quote. That keeps me motivated when I am about to go out on the competition floor. I would say little short prayers, quoting Scriptures: I can do all things through Christ, don’t fear, be courageous. Little things like that get me motivated.”