Posts Tagged ‘ gymnastics ’

The Gabby Douglas Story: The Gymnastics Star Talks About Her Own Movie

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Tomorrow marks the start of Black History Month. To celebrate the occasion (and because our Olympic fever is running high) Parents chatted with Olympic gymnast and gold medalist Gabby Douglas to talk about her upcoming biographical film The Gabby Douglas Story premiering Saturday, February 1 on Lifetime. After talking with the spunky athlete about her accomplishments and her family, it’s no wonder that Gabby, and her mom, Natalie Hawkins, continue to inspire us.

P: Tell me how you feel about gymnastics and how you feel when you compete.

GD: I love gymnastics and when I compete it’s my favorite thing to do. I just love putting on a good show for the crowd. It’s just so fun for me because as a gymnast we get dolled up and I love decorating my own leotard. My mom and I love to put a lot of rhinestones on it, a lot of bling. It looks great out on the competition floor.

P: How were your mom, your sisters, and your brother helpful in encouraging you to pursue your passion?

GD: They were so helpful and supportive. Family is definitely the most important thing. When I wanted to quit they helped me get right back on track. They’re so loving, so caring, and I wouldn’t have been on the podium if it weren’t for them.

P: When was the first time you thought about the Olympics? 

GD: When I was little the Olympics was in the back of my mind, but it wasn’t until I was 8 slash 9. During the 2004 Olympics, an Olympic gold medalist was doing a skill called The Jive on bars—her name is Carly Patterson—and I was looking at what she was doing and I thought Oh my goodness I want to go there and do what she’s doing. I sat in front of the TV in awe.

P: And now you’re the flying squirrel.

GD: I haven’t heard that name in a very long time.

P: Your family was obviously very supportive, but you did endure economic hardship. What does it mean to you to have a mom who made sacrifices and believed in you enough to make those difficult choices?

GD: Just to have a mom like her who sacrificed basically everything for me to be in the gym and for me to train and go to different competitions, to this day I’m just like, Mom, gold medal goes to you. She’s so supportive and even at my lowest point or if I would make a mistake, she wasn’t very hard on me. She would say, “You know what, next competition. I believe in you.” She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I’m just so blessed to have a mom like her. Thanks, Mom! I love you.

P: You’ve mentioned there were times when you thought of quitting. What made you continue on?

GD: I wanted to quit right before the Olympic Games. I was homesick and it was hammering time in the gym and I was doing more intense numbers and routines and I thought, Oh my goodness, this is way too hard. I want to quit and work at a Chick-Fil-A or join another sport. The people around me, my team, my brother John, my two sisters Joy and Ariel, and my mom helped me get back on track and told me just to keep fighting.

P: What would you say to a kid who is thinking of quitting either a sport or an art, something that they’ve devoted a lot of time and energy and passion to?

GD: I would say, just keep pushing through and don’t give up. We’re human, so of course there may be some times where we think it’s too hard or we want to give it up because things may look crazy, but I would just tell him, “If you have the passion for it, just don’t give up! Just keep pressing!” The worst thing to have in life is regret. Keep striving for your goals and keep pushing through.

P: What is your advice or your mom’s advice for parents of a child who wants to quit?

GD: Mom, maybe you’re better to answer this one.

NH: I knew gymnastics was her passion. It was never something that I wanted her to go out there and do. It was something that she always expressed to me that she loved. If that’s the situation, then you definitely have to be there to provide that support when the times get hard, because they do get hard. After 10 years of  training in a sport 38 hours a week it get’s kind of monotonous after a while. You have to be that support that helps them when they’re struggling the most. What I didn’t do was grill her when she came home from practices. I didn’t come down hard on her if she made a mistake. I would say, “You have to allow yourself chances to make mistakes because you’re human. You’ll go out there, you’ll compete again, and you’ll be happy with your results, but you’ll never, you know, know the satisfaction if you don’t try.” And then if it’s not their passion anymore and they want to explore other sports, it’s hard. As a parent when you’ve put so much time and energy and effort into something, you want to see it through to the end. But if you know that that’s not their passion and they’ve expressed that to you, I think you have to step back and allow them to pursue their own path.

P: At a certain point, you decided to train away from home. How were you feeling? 

GD: I moved away from home from Virginia Beach all the way to West Des Moines, Iowa and I know that everyone thinks WHY? I moved away when I was 14 years old and what I was feeling was I am so ready for my dreams to become my reality. I was just so ready for a new chapter and a new beginning! I also was so excited to train with Coach Chow, the coach that I saw at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I was so stoked to meet him and train under his wing, so at that time I thought YAY I get to go train with him! But then I realized what am I gonna do? My family wasn’t around me and missed being around them. I was devastated and thought, What did I do? I remember just crying pretty much every day. I just had to come to realize that this was my decision. I just had to suck it up and push through this.

P: What was life around the house like being part of a new family?

GD: I moved in with the Partons and it was a change for me because they have four little girls and now I had become the big sister. I’m the youngest one in my family so I was like “what? Big sister? Huh?” It was just a change for me because I kind of had to set great examples for them in their life. I loved it. I loved helping them with their school or watching them dance because some of them did dance. Leah Parton does gymnastics so I would help her on different skills. I loved it. I like being the big sister!

P: You make it to the Olympics. You win team gold. You win all-around gold. You make history as the first American woman to do both in a single Games. You’re the first African-American to win all-around. What were you feeling in the immediate moments and then the aftermath of all of this success that you’d been working towards?

GD: Oh gosh. I just wanted to go to London. I did the best that I could. I wanted to place because who runs a race and doesn’t want to win? Everyone competes to win. But, wow. It hadn’t sunk in, yet. So much was going on and I think when I got back to the States it actually sunk in because everyone said, “We were watching you and rooting for you.” When I won was just excited. Thinking about all the sacrifices my family and I had to overcome…it finally paid off and it was all worth it.

P: Black History Month is upon us and you’ve certainly made history. How does it feel to take on the position of role model in the African-American community?

GD: It’s so great. I just love sharing my advice to young kids or anyone who is going through struggle or an obstacle in their life. I’m just so blessed to be on this platform where I get to inspire or make a big impact on someone else’s life.

P: What is the message that you want to communicate to young kids?

GD: My message is just to always keep pushing through and you never ever want to give up. You want to try your hardest and give your 100 percent. I learned to just keep pushing through. Like my mom said you never know if you don’t try so you always want to give it your best shot.

P: One of the things you had to push through was being bullied or feeling ostracized as a child at your home gym. Even at the Olympics they were making such a big deal about things like hair. How do you handle criticism and what is your advice to kids who are dealt criticism from their peers?

GD: My advice would be just to not focus on it. You always want to walk in love. You never want to go out and say mean things back because you’ll regret it. I wouldn’t worry about it. But if you’re being bullied, you need to speak up and tell an adult. As for London, I knew I had a job to do at the Olympics and I wasn’t going to let anyone or anything stop me from accomplishing my dreams. So I was said, “Yeah they can talk about my hair, but I’m gonna do this floor routine.”

P: Yeah and you nailed it. So, how do you feel about being the subject of a biographical film for Lifetime?

GD: Oh my goodness. It’s just amazing! I’m in New York City right now and we pulled by a bus stop and I have a poster right there! It just seems so surreal. I never would have thought I would have a movie coming out about my life story.

P: Did you have a lot of input in the film with picking who played you, or any of the events that you thought were the most important moments of your life to include?

GD: I did. My mom and I had a lot of input and we were very much involved with who portrayed us. When we found out Regina King was playing my mom we were jumping up and down. We love her and she did an excellent job. They kept my mom and I in the loop.

P: Are you having a viewing party on Saturday?

GD: I think my family is back in L.A. I am not going to be there because I am actually a special correspondent for Inside Edition [at the Sochi Olympics].

P: Have you seen the finished product? Are you happy with it?

GD: I am happy with the film. I like how they show the spirit of my family and my story and how we like to joke and we’re just so close. I’m pleased. Are you pleased mom? (I am.) She’s pleased.

P: What are you hopes for the future? I heard you want to go into acting, not just being the subject of a movie, but here you are going off with Inside Edition

GD: I want to do another Olympics. The whole Olympic experience is just such a fun journey and you know you learn a lot so I definitely want to do another Olympics. I’m training right now and hopefully I’ll be competing by this year. You’ll see me and root for me!

The Gabby Douglas Story premieres February 1, 2014 on Lifetime at 8/7c. Check your local listings.

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Former Olympian John Macready on Motivation and Success

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

John MacreadyJohn Macready competed in the 1996 Summer Games as part of the men’s gymnastics team. He’s now a motivational speaker, dad to three kids–9, 7, and 9 months old–and was in London to cheer on Team USA. Fun fact: Macready said he’s childhood buddies with the lead singer of the band LMFAO, and sang me a line of “Sexy and I Know It” during our conversation. I spoke with him at the P&G Family Home  last week while I was in London. (Procter & Gamble funded my trip and arranged the interview).

At what point did you realize gymnastics was more than just a hobby?

I think for me it was when the ’84 Olympics came to Los Angeles, and I got to see it first hand and ask all about it. I was just like, “That’s what I want to do.”

What about it made you so interested in it?

It’s the entire world coming together in the most peaceful manner you can come together. Obviously, we have wars, and you see in some of our sporting events how people are fighting. I think we’re more apt to fight than ever. But at the Olympics, it’s all put on hold. Athletes are able to leave it on the floor, and they’re able to respect each other. There’s nothing better to me than to see someone be upset to lose and then to shake the gold medalist’s hand and show them respect. That’s just awesome. And you see it over and over and over again here.

What advice do you have for kids who are starting to get into sports and might be dreaming of the Olympics?

You’ve got to always understand the big picture. I think people get lost in success and in trying to go for something they forget why they’re going for it. When you make a goal, whether it’s an Olympic gold medal or maybe something outside of sports, you have to be willing to do everything to protect that goal and go after it. But you have to be completely okay with not having that goal and not making it.

You’re going to be on this Earth, hopefully, if you’re lucky, for seventy, eighty, ninety years. You’re going to have many chances to be successful. Maybe it wasn’t your plan, but you learn that it’s going to bring something else more successful. There’s more to come.

What advice do you have for the parents of those kids?

Teach your kids how to motivate themselves. If you can’t teach them how to motivate themselves you’re never going to motivate them. You’re never going to be able to push somebody to be successful. You have to teach them how to find it themselves.

Do you think you’ll be here in the future as an Olympic dad?

That would be so cool. But that would be cool for me. I want whatever’s going to be cool for them. And I also want to see different stuff. Maybe my kid will be an amazing piano player, something I’ve never experienced. For me, my biggest dream for my kids is to get to watch them do something they love, for them to be passionate. I don’t care if it’s the Olympics. I don’t care if it’s school. I just love seeing passion.

More in’s series on Olympians, former Olympians, and parents of Olympians:


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Talking With Gymnast Shawn Johnson at the London Olympics

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Shawn JohnsonI finished up my first of three days in London at the Olympics, exhausted but energized. I spent time at the Procter & Gamble Family Home — a huge space that is part oasis, part Oz — where athletes and their families can chill out, grab a meal or drink, relax, and watch the Games on TV. (Full disclosure: P&G’s Thank You Mom campaign is funding my trip and connecting me with the athletes and moms I’ll be interviewing.)

It’s a place where athletes walk around nonchalantly with medals, and everyone looks sort of familiar, since you’ve probably seen them on TV. Last night, I caught up briefly with Shawn Johnson, just a few hours after the U.S. women took the gold in team gymnastics. Johnson is a gymnastics pro and Olympic gold medalist, having competed valiantly for team USA in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. She recently announced her retirement from the sport and is joining P&G in London as an Olympics correspondent.

How have you been dealing with the unexpected news of the past few months and having to drop out of Olympic competition?
I’ve been dealing with it pretty well. It was something that I couldn’t really change. I couldn’t push my knee any further than it could go. Physically and mentally I wasn’t ready, and I had to accept that. Since then, I’ve been blessed with many opportunities to do wonderful things, like coming to the Olympics and being a part of the whole Olympic movement. It’s been an easier transition than I thought it would be. I’m doing pretty good.

Our readers generally have kids who are pretty young, who may be in their first gymnastics class. What would you tell those moms and kids, looking ahead at their own Olympic dreams?
Just not to force anything. Kids should be kids and they should have fun. They should try things and not take things too seriously. Success comes on its own, and if you just encourage them and support them, they’ll work hard enough for it.

How did you know when this was something real, as opposed to just having fun in the gym?
I didn’t. I had a dream and I wanted to be an Olympian, just like every other kid. I just loved gymnastics, but I never thought it was possible. I just kept practicing and continuing and pushing myself. I probably was 13 or 14 years old before I said this might be a possibility.

Did your lifestyle change at that point?
It was more gradual. I never did anything drastic. My parents and my coach were really big on me keeping a balanced life and still going to school and not dedicating every ounce of it toward gymnastics, because they didn’t want me to get burned out.

What advice would you give kids on handling disappointment and setbacks?
It’s a part of life. It’s going to happen. You’re going to come in last, you’re going to fall, you’re going to make mistakes. But you have to learn from them. It makes you stronger when you overcome it instead of letting it defeat you. My coach always said you have to fall a hundred times to make one perfect, and I believe that.

What’s next for you?
I will be heading to L.A. for Dancing With the Stars, and then heading off to college.

Any other advice for parents out there who want to raise the next great Olympian?
If you have the mentality that you’re raising the next Olympian, you may be doing it a little wrong. Just let your kid be normal and things will come on their own. Have fun.

Follow Parents on Twitter and Instagram for the latest from London.

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The Olympics Are Going to Stress Me Out

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Balance BeamI’ve been excited to get my almost-7-year-old, Julia, into following the games. We got off to a rocky start Friday night, when I let her and her younger sister stay up later than usual to watch the opening ceremonies. Very quickly this “privilege” felt like more of a punishment. The girls were beyond confused by what they were watching; it was a downright brutal thing to view with inquisitive children. “What’s the Industrial Revolution?” “Why do they wear those clothes?” “Why is that lady jumping out of that plane?” “What do you mean, she’s not really jumping out? What is she doing? Who is jumping out, then?” and so on. I asked Julia to stop asking so many questions, but as she fairly pointed out, “Mommy, I like to understand what’s going on!” Finally I had to turn it off and call it a night.

Last night we let her watch some of the women’s gymnastics, and she was glued to the screen. She immediately picked a favorite (McKayla Maroney); announced to me and my husband that she’s going to be in the Olympics, too (we let it go); and tried to predict who was going to get the best score and why. Around 9:30 p.m., when NBC switched back to swimming, it was bedtime. She hopped into bed, bringing her dad’s Sports Illustrated featuring the Fab Five on the cover. I taped the rest and promised we’ll watch it tonight, and then I went to sleep, too.

Now I know that Jordyn Wieber had her shocking loss, and I’m dreading watching it with Julia. My little girl feels things tres deeply, and gets emotionally invested in pretty much everything we watch together. In fact, we couldn’t even continue with “American Idol” this season because she would dissolve into hysterics at every elimination, and talk about the fallen competitor for days and weeks afterward. (Not long ago she named a goldfish Shannon after Shannon Magrane, who was one of the first to be kicked off, back in March.) How did I not think of this when I suggested it’d be a fun thing to watch together?

Yeah, yeah–I know the Olympics give me the chance to reinforce the lessons that someone always has to lose, that life isn’t always fair, and so on, but the fact remains that it’s going to be a loooong two weeks in our home. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes tonight.

Image: Professional gymnastic balance beam in sport palace via Shutterstock

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