The US women’s gymnastic team will leave the Rio Olympics (at minimum) with a Gold in the Team competition and a Gold and Silver in the All Around individuals. Yet despite these accomplishments, Social media has found it acceptable to blast one of the greatest women gymnast in the history of the sport. While many people will point to Gabby Douglas’ race as a precursor to criticisms (and in London 2012 they may have had a point), in my opinion, the criticisms come from the perceived notion of favoritism rather then Douglas’ skin color.
Let’s begin this story at the Olympic Trials (although we could go back further). Douglas entered Trials as a lock to make the team. As the returning all around gold medalist, no one questioned Douglas’ ability to make and even lead America to a gold medal in Rio. It was a forgone conclusion that the team would include Gabby Douglas as a centerpiece entering Brazil.
…But it didn’t happen that way….
Douglas struggled…..alot! She struggled so much that her final standing seemed to eliminate her from making the Olympic Team and ability to defend her individual medal. But, despite her failing in multiple events and finishing well below many other gymnasts, Douglas was allowed a spot on the team. She was even allowed to participate in the All Around event in Rio, over, what many felt was a more deserving Laurie Hernandez. To many, Gabby Douglas made the team due to favoritism and not because of her skill.
That last sentence is absolutely wrong!
Gabby Douglas is one of the top 5 American gymnast in 2016. Did she show it in the American trials? Absolutely not! But the American trials are not the only criteria used to judge a gymnasts ability to perform for the US at the Olympics. From what I have gathered, the entire body of work for that year (give or take a few months) is considered when selecting a gymnast. For those unaware, Douglas has won multiple events in the past year including the 2016 AT&T American Cup and 2016 City of Jesolo Trophy. Although Douglas’ trials weren’t the best, based on the total criteria, she was more then qualified to represent the US.
Favoritism would have been selecting Douglas based on no accomplishments and a perception that she will magically become qualified over night. Gabby Douglas has done something many of us will never do. Be at the top of your sport or craft at the age of 16! She followed it up by maintaining that level of excellence over the course of 4 years. The perception of favoritism does not qualify for Gabby Douglas making the team, period.
But this does explain the rudeness, nit-picking and downright bullying of Gabby Douglas. If you do not think she deserves to be on the team then any misstep is seen as a huge insult to your pride and the concept of fairness. This is why audiences criticized Douglas for not putting her hand on her chest during the American national anthem despite there being many photos and videos of Olympic gold medalists doing the same before her. Or criticizing Douglas for being distant from her teammates during competition as if every American team in the Olympics has to be one big happy family in order to win gold.
Americans have a habit of living in the here and now and not assessing the complete scope of decision making (see Presidential election). Gabby Douglas is an Olympian and her circumstances do not compare to our own. She earned her spot after over a decade of hard work and accomplishments. Favoritism does happen and can lead to diminished opportunities for people, but in this instance, Gabby Douglas deserved to be a two time Olympian and has done nothing wrong.