A random girl's random gymnastics ramblings.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How I Learned to Dougie

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.

It was the least I could do.

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.


  1. Lovely read :) and I love that piked tkatchev pic. I really hope she knows how good she is and how much people like her

  2. "A girl who goes after her dreams, even though they've never been promised to her." This sentence so is terrifying and beautiful at the same time.

    Lovely post.

  3. Spanny this is an amazing post. I agree with all you said. There are people out there claiming the we only like because she is black and doing well. I wish they would look at all she has sacrificed to get here.

  4. She's an incredible gymnast and seems like a lovely girl. In interviews she actually says something interesting rather than just regurgitating some sporting psychobabble (e.g. "I just wanted to hit four for four") - that should be worth extra points =)

    1. Amen! *sniff, sniff* ok, that made me a little teary eyed. I want her succeed so much, but I am afraid the pressure may get to her.

  5. okay Gabby superimposed on Nastia is kind of creepy and weird but otherwise, a good post.

    Gabby is the kind of gymnast who draws you in and makes you want to root for her. She seems to compete with a lot of joy, not just a faked smile.

    Have you seen her family's blog? http://briesbigcheese.blogspot.com/ it's written by her sisters, brother and mom. Apparently Gabby was so interested in gymnastics when she was a kid she'd look up gyms in the phonebook and call them up for lessons to try and convince her mom she needed to take lessons.

  6. Awesome post. It's so great to see something heartfelt and positive after all the snark on every gym message board about this kid. Thank you!! <3

  7. Great Post Spanny, Is that the first time you've ever posted pics of your family on this website? I like the personal touch :) Gabby reminds me of D. Daws circa de 1992 Olympics. She's fantastic.

  8. Gabby just tweeted about this blog entry :) Love that girl!

  9. I wish more people would embrace the Dougie because she is the shiznit.

  10. I personally love her! This was a great post.

  11. I think we need a recap of MIOBI last night Spanny :)

  12. From the minute I saw her last year at nationals I have had a soft spot for this kid. She just has the "it" factor that makes you HAVE to root for her!

  13. Please, oh please, tell me that we will be getting a MIOBI recap Spanny Tampson style. They never disappoint.

  14. Thank you SOO much for this post Spanny. I've read so many blogs just wanting to hate this kid and I have no clue why? Everyone has thier favorites, I get it, but how could you not have a heart for this kid and her amazing talent and potential!

  15. What do you think of the chances of Gabby winning the Olympics? I know she has to face more pressure than many of her competitors, but she's got it in my opinion. She has the highest start value in the US, and I think she will be hitting her routines much cleaner and consistently by the summer. Especially when you look at her coach, his former gymnast, and her talent, I think it is easy to see a gold medal around her neck.

  16. Thank you for such a truly inspiring and real story on Gabby! This little girl is an inspiration to everyone. She has a dream and she giving it her all to make it happen. I predict that she can win the Gold AA in London! My friend and I are having Team Gabby Tshirts made to wear for Olympic trials and during the Olympics. I hope that she is given the opportunity to compete AA in the Olympics. Thanks again for such a heartfelt story on Gabby, she deserves the praise! Plus her gymnastics are absolutely georgous!

  17. I absolutely love her, also I believe she is the only gymnast who can really challenge Jordyn in the all-around and I cannot wait to see the battle between them in London. I also adore Gabby's personality, she is just so bright and bubbly and an adorable little flying squirrel.

  18. And here she is today, the 2012 Olympic All Around Champion.

  19. I remember reading this blog post and loving it...I have always loved Gabby and knew she would succeed...but it's hard to believe (in a good way) that she's THE OLYMPIC ALL AROUND CHAMPION!

  20. Wow to look back on this post after the past day. I'm just so pleased for her. So utterly chuffed as the British say. She'd definitely inspired me, and a whole legion of people everywhere, all over the world.