Gabby effing Douglas.
What is it about this girl that positively enraptures me? Here I am, an adult woman who hasn't done as much as a back handspring in years (except last summer in Chicago on my bed in the hotel, and I faceplanted. It hurt.) Of course, I have followed elite gymnastics very closely since the early 90s, and have had my favorites (Moceanu, Dawes) and my not-so-favorites (Khorkina, cough.)
I love watching gymnastics. I love learning about the sport. There is always something else to notice, something new (and probably stupid) about the code to pick up and focus on. It is so satisfying to engulf yourself in this information, and yet, it totally sucks. The more you know, the more you are able to criticize. What was once "Oooh, she's got spunk!" slowly turns into "Ugh. She has the worst counter-rotation during her release moves." Sometimes, I feel that it takes away from my ability to fully enjoy gymnastics the way I used to when I was younger. I see so much of what I don't like, and so little of what I do like.
But then there's Gabby.
She has flaws. I'm sure she does. I don't see them. Well, that's a lie, her FX choreo needs a serious dose of Travis Wall STAT. But in my eyes, she is absolutely golden. But it's not just her gymnastics that I am so wildly impressed with. It is her as a person.
I mean, whatever, I don't KNOW her as a person, but that's the thing about Dougie: I don't think you have to KNOW her to know her. Here is this girl, barely 16, who is making huge sacrifices to achieve her dreams.
"Oh, but Spanny, EVERY gymnast makes sacrifices!"
That's true, but this is something else. Girls have been moving away from home to train for years. Big whoop. However, Dougie's a military kid. That shit is a whole different ballgame. I know that many families are close, but there is a different type of closeness inside of a family where a member is fighting overseas. There is a desperate closeness.
When my brother and sister were deployed, I did the only thing I thought I could do: I moved my ass back home to be near my parents.
I left LA, and bunkered down in Winterville, MN so that my family could at least have a semblance of togetherness. I did it for myself, for my parents, but also for my brother and sister. It helped them knowing that I was near my parents, so I could be there for THEM.
So imagine being a father who is away from his children for months, a year at a time. Not only is he worried about his own safety, of course he's worried about his family back home. Now imagine that father's little girl is an elite gymnast. Of course I'm just making assumptions here, but I imagine that one must feel an incredible mix of bittersweet fear. What man wouldn't be so endlessly proud of his daughter when she's as talented as any high level gymnast is? Such pride, and yet sadness because he doesn't get to be there to support her, to witness all of the glory days for himself. And the fear that I think any human has while watching little girls fling themselves sky high in the hopes of pleasing one Bruno Grandi.
Dad deals with that, and daughter deals with that. She looks young, but she's 16. Gabby is surely aware of the worry she causes BOTH of her parents. I'm sure there is a lot of pressure, and desire really, to stay home, and be safe.
But if there's one thing Gabby's not, it's SAFE.
The SAFE thing for her, and her family to do would be to continue training in Virginia, where she was really, really good, but not GREAT. But she didn't want to be safe, she wanted to be GREAT, so she packed her shit up and moved to IOWA. Who chooses to go to Iowa?? (I say this as a Minnesotan.) She left her friends, she left her family, she left her coaches, and pretty much her entire life just to pursue this one thing:
That is some ballsy shit right there.
So how does this affect me, Spanny F. Tampson?
Gabby was quoted during one of those news fluff pieces regarding local athletes,
This little girl inspires the SHIT out of me. I assume she meant inspiring more of the young gymnast crowd, and not so much the old curmudgeonly cat lady crowd. But this little girl inspires me.
Here is a young, teenaged girl who is succeeding, and failing, in front of the world. I am TERRIFIED of succeeding or failing, and there's not a soul watching me. I genuinely don't know how she does it.
Those are words to live by. Those are MY words to live by.
I think that inside every woman is a little Dougie. Someone who wants to fly high, and to achieve her goals, adversity be damned. Someone who can faceplant in front of thousands, and still walk away with a smile. A girl who goes after her dreams, even though they've never been promised to her.
I wish I was more like Dougie. Every single day.
From child athletes to creepy cat-hoarding adults, Gabby Douglas inspires us all.