‘Proud’ Gymnastics Star Gabby Douglas Celebrates Mother’s Heroic Achievement Which Even She Couldn’t Pull-Off

Published 05/14/2024, 12:33 PM EDT

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Gabby Douglas is hungry to secure a spot on the five-woman Team USA team set to compete in Paris 2024, entering this year’s second national competition this month. Douglas made her international debut in 2008 and became a gymnastics juggernaut nicknamed “Flying Squirrel.” Four years later, she became the first U.S. gymnast to win the all-around and team gold in one Olympics.

In her first competitive appearance, Douglas earned 11.450 on the floor exercise and suffered a fall. Beyond her gymnastics merits, she once shared, “I was homeschooled, third grade all the way to my senior year.” While Douglas will be making up for her eight-year professional hiatus at the US Classic; this Mother’s Day week, her mother rose to the occasion serving her some inspiration as she advances in her own right.

Gabby Douglas could take success notes from her mother


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No one stood like a rock for Gabby Douglas like her mother Natalie Hawkins. Natalie raised Gabby and her siblings as a single mother after divorcing her husband Timothy Douglas when Gabby was very young. Gabrielle’s mother took on several responsibilities during her daughter’s life and career, including manager, cheerleader during competitions, breadwinner, and additional responsibilities.


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Twinning with Mother’s Day celebrations, Natalie also shared her joy about finishing her degree. Douglas reshared the Instagram post to her story, adding the caption, “so proud,” along with a black heart emoji. Natalie looked stunning as she reflected on her journey, adorning a graduation cap, an embroidered University of Texas flap, and a black full-sleeved waistcoat combined with a black pencil skirt.

Her post read, “Two years ago, I decided to go back to college full time and finish up my classes, so I could get my Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. It definitely ranks up there with one of the most challenging things that I’ve ever done!” On the other hand, the three-time Olympic gold medalist Douglas’s life hasn’t been without struggles. Due to her intense gymnastics schedule, Douglas spent most of her childhood homeschooling.


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For context, she once explained, “My typical school day would be like, two to four hours a day, and then gymnastics the rest of the day. It’s just very different.”Although she never went back to studies, after the conclusion of the 2016 Rio Olympics, Gabby kept advocating for various causes. However, the Douglas family faced other difficulties in Gabby’s early gymnastics career than scholastic ones.

How financial troubles made success a necessity

Being a single mother of four was a difficult task for Natalie Hawkins. In addition, there was the financial burden of providing for Gabby’s gymnastics career, besides all of her children’s needs. Before Gabby’s historic feat of being the first African American to win the all-around title at the 2012 Olympics, the family somehow pulled through.


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Gabby’s military scholarship helped pay for training at prestigious gyms. A $500 scholarship from a nonprofit group in 2006 made it possible for Gabby to practice at a renowned gymnastics camp in Texas. Before Gabby became popular, the family was at risk of losing their Virginia Beach house because of unpaid electricity bills.

Hawkins remembered well the times, early in Gabby’s career, when Gabby called home, worn out or homesick. Natalie would constantly remind her daughter of the value of bravery and strength and push her to be resilient. Gabby continues to set an example for others by being dedicated to achieving her goals, just like her mother did.


Written by:

Divya Purohit


One take at a time

Divya Purohit is a senior Olympics Sports writer for EssentiallySports. She majorly covers gymnastics, alpine skiing, and horse racing. While bringing the detailed stats of gymnastics to the American readers, she covered two prominent events - the 2023 Xfinity Gymnastics Championships, and the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships.
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Edited by:

Sampurna Pal