Gabby Douglas: Grace, Gold, and Leaps of Faith

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Gabby Douglas leaped her way to gold and stole the show at the 2012 Summer Olympics Games as part of the U.S. women's gymnastics team known as the "Fierce Five."

Her triumph also made the 16-year-old the first African American to be named the world's best all-around gymnast.

That accomplishment has led to a post-Olympics life jammed with television appearances, photo shoots, and endorsement deals. The Virginia Beach native also just wrapped up performing for the Kelloggs cross-country gymnastics tour.

Her road to two gold medals and international acclaim, however, contained a lot bumps along the way. She shares her journey in her new autobiography called Grace, Gold and Glory: My Leap of Faith.

Star-Spangled Moment

Douglas told CBN News's Charlene Israel that she is still getting used to her new found fame.

"When you're out shopping at a grocery store, you see yourself on the Essence magazine in the grocery store or wherever, what goes through your mind when you see Gabby Douglas on the cover of a magazine?" Israel asked.

"I just stop and just stare for like five minutes," she said. "I'm, like, wow, this is very cool. I just like take pictures of it... I do take pictures of it. It's just very cool."

Douglas described what it was like to stand on the Olympic podium and receive her medals while hearing the Star Spangled Banner.

"It was kind of like a concert. I mean there were flashes everywhere, the flag was raising, when I bent down to get my medal, I just thought about all the hard work, all the sacrifices was definitely worth it and I was thinking thank you God," she said. "Thank you for bringing me to this moment."

Bold Devotion

Douglas counted that winning moment as a miracle after being born with a life threatening rare blood disease.

"When I was a baby I was very sick. I remember my mom just telling me that she kept praying and praying for me every single night when I was up coughing or I couldn't keep food down," she recalled. "And she was just praying, praying for me every single night and finally God answered her prayers."

Douglas grew up in a devout Christian home, and as a consequence, faith became part of her DNA. After she won gold in London, she boldly thanked God and she has not stopped.

She told CBN News about the response she has been receiving for being so vocal about her faith.

"It's just very exciting and I'm so glad that I get to speak out," she said. "And when people tweet at me and say, 'I'm so glad you did it,' then I'm just, like, oh man, I'm so glad I did too."

"I speak up because I have a voice and I spoke out for what I believed in," Douglas said.

Leaps of Faith

Despite that faith, Douglas's road to victory was not easy. She highlights many of her many struggles in her new book, including the time when she and her family were homeless and lived in a van when she was a baby.

"I'm a normal girl," she said. "I go through normal life situations and every family has hiccups and difficulties and struggles and I feel like God definitely had a plan for me."

"I did go through some negative things, but I feel like God has always been there with me," Douglas said.

She explained to CBN News why she wanted to write a book.

"I wanted to write the book because I want people to get motivated and I want people to get inspired and happy," she said. "And though you may be going through difficulties or struggles, I wanted you to know that everything is possible."

Douglas said there were many times when it was hard to hold on to hope and faith.

"My faith was tested," she explained. "I remember championships where I fell five times and I was going through an injury and I looked at my Mom and said why?"

"I feel like God is not there for me and my mom just sat me down and said, 'I don't know what's happening but don't give up now. Be strong. Keep your faith. Don't, don't give up,'" she explained.

Douglas said her mother Natalie, a single mom, as well as other members of her family pushed her to keep the faith.

"I don't think I could have done it without my family being behind me every single minute, through the thick, through the thin," she said.

God Has a Plan

In her book, Douglas explained how she asked God why he gave her the gifts she has.

"It makes me wonder why did he choose me? Out of all the millions of people out there, why me?" she told CBN News. "And I just sit down and just think and I'm like, huh."

"But I think God has a plan for everyone and God has just blessed me through thick and thin," she continued. "I just sit down and say I'm just so blessed to be in this position right now."

Douglas said that knowing God had a plan is what kept her motivated. She said that prayer also played a big role on her journey.

"Before the all-around competition, I was just praying to God and saying, 'Thank you for all, God,'" she recalled. "No matter what happens tomorrow I'm still going to be with you. Win or lose I'm still going to bless you and I'm still going to give you all the glory because you brought me here."

But Douglas's Olympic dream almost ended before it even began when she contemplated leaving the sport after becoming homesick while training in Iowa.

"I wrote down this long text message on my phone saying I wanted to quit. I wanted to join track or field, any excuse I could come home and get out of gymnastics and my mom didn't believe me so we had a family discussion," she explained.

Just Believe

Today Gabby said she is grateful for that pep talk and for all the blessings that have followed her decision to not quit gymnastics.

Meanwhile, she said she is looking ahead to the Rio Summer Olympic Games in 2016. She is also interested in acting someday. 

For now, the two-time Olympic gold medalist plans to use her platform to inspire others that with hard work, dreams can come true, if you just trust in God and let yourself soar.

"I'm so glad I got to go to London and inspire young girls, or anyone really, to pass down my advice, to pass down the message and say anything is possible, if you just believe," she said.

 

**Originally aired December 4, 2012.

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Charlene  Aaron

Charlene Aaron

CBN News Reporter

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter and helps anchor for the CBN News Channel.  Follow her on Twitter @CharNews and "like" her at Facebook.com/CharleneIsraelCBNNews.