What You Didn't Know About Gabby Douglas

At the 2012 Olympics in London, Gabby Douglas captivated the world with her stellar performance in the gymnastics individual all-around, and we all shared her joy as she took home the gold medal. After a much-deserved break following her win, Douglas returned in 2016 at the Rio Olympics and took home gold again in the team event. What keeps this phenom atop the medal podium? Let's take a closer look at her life and some of her extraordinary accomplishments.

She made history

When Gabby Douglas won her gold medal in the individual all-around competition during the 2012 Olympics in London, she made history both for American gymnasts and for women of color. She was the first American gymnast to win both team gold and all-around gold at the same Olympic games. Douglas also became the first black female gymnast of any nationality to ever win the individual all-around at an Olympics.

She set a Guinness World Record

In 2014, Douglas organized a world record attempt as part of world Olympic Day festivities, which happens on June 23 each year. She gathered more than 700 youth gymnasts from 14 Pittsburgh-area clubs together on the Roberto Clemente Bridge, where they did cartwheels together. After a few practice runs, 690 of the gymnasts were able to set a new Guinness World Record for most people performing cartwheels simultaneously, shattering the old record of 482 people, set in 2009.

A generous couple made her London Olympic dream possible

When Gabby was 14, she had reached a plateau in her training—if she wanted to continue getting better, she would need elite coaching. She found that coach in Liang Chow, who managed to teach Douglas the extremely difficult Amanar vault in a one-day training camp. There was only one problem: Douglas lived in Virginia, while Chow trained out of a gym in Iowa. For Gabby's single mother, Natalie Hawkins, relocating the entire Douglas family to Iowa wasn't an option at the time.

Thankfully, Missy and Travis Parton — who also had a daughter training with Chow — made the generous decision to open their home up to Douglas and serve as her host family. "It didn't seem like a difficult decision," said Missy Parton. "Travis and I had kind of felt like this was something we were meant to do." They definitely made the right decision. Within a year of transferring to Iowa, Douglas had qualified for the U.S. national team, and a year after that, she became an Olympic champion at the 2012 games.

She almost quit gymnastics for good

Seven months before the 2012 Olympics, Douglas was nearly burned out and ready to return home. She texted her mother, telling her, "Gymnastics is not my passion anymore. I can get a job at Chick-Fil-A in Virginia Beach and live off the 14-grand I just won at World Championships. I just want to be a normal teenage kid." Natalie Hawkins knew her daughter would regret it later if she decided to quit, and convinced her to finish out her season. Less than a year later, Gabby was wowing the world with her Olympic performance and hasn't looked back since.

She didn't get to defend her all-around Olympic title because of a technicality

During the qualification round for the individual all-around final at the 2016 Olympics, Douglas scored an impressive 60.131 points, just .476 of a point behind her teammate Aly Raisman. While this stand-out performance put her in third place overall during the qualification, Douglas was not allowed to advance to the finals. Why? Because of a rule implemented in 2003 by the FIG — the International Federation of Gymnastics. The statute limits the number of athletes per country who can qualify for an individual final to two. This means that even though Douglas scored a full two points higher than the next gymnast in the qualification round, she could not compete in the finals because Simone Biles and Aly Raisman had already claimed the top two spots for the United States.

After finishing third in the qualifications, Douglas proved that she is a champion in sportsmanship as well as gymnastics. Even though she could not defend her Olympic title, she took the disappointment in stride, saying that the rule was "fine" and that having four years to reign as the Olympic all-around champion had been an "amazing ride."

Mattel designed a Barbie doll based on her

Just a day after Douglas was selected to compete on the U.S. women's gymnastics team in Rio, toymakers Mattel announced that their newest Barbie would be based on the champion gymnast. Mattel chose Douglas for the honor based on her confidence, work ethic, and belief in herself, because they want girls who may play with the doll to be reminded that they can be anything they want to be with hard work and dedication. The senior VP of Barbie explained, "While imagining you can be anything is the first step, seeing that you can is what makes all the difference. Role models like Gabby Douglas show girls that with determination and perseverance their potential is limitless." The Gabby Douglas Barbie will have leotards and clothing based off of Douglas' own fashion line, and the doll is fully articulated so that it can replicate most of Douglas' gymnastics moves and poses.

She has her own reality show, movie, and even two books

Since her win in London, Douglas has penned two books. The first, a memoir entitled Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith, was published in 2012. Douglas followed that up in 2013 with Raising the Bar, a book full of tips and inspiration on how to achieve your dreams. Lifetime created a television movie about her life and path to success in 2014 called The Gabby Douglas Story. Douglas and her mother, Natalie, helped produce the film, and Gabby performed all the gymnastics stunts herself. Cable network Oxygen approached the Douglas clan about doing a reality documentary series, so you can follow the adventures of Gabby, her three siblings, and her mother by tuning in to Douglas Family Gold, which premiered in May 2016. Douglas has also been featured in a commercial for Nike, where she opens a locked door from the outside by doing crazy reverse-split contortions through the doggie door — yes, really.