At 6am this morning I was awakened by the sound of little thuds and bumps. When I went to investigate the mysterious noises, I almost cried at the site of my 5 year old niece emulating a Gabby Douglas floor routine. Normally this would be the time when I would scold her for interrupting my beauty rest, but I just didn’t have the heart to crush her spirit. I think it was at that moment that I realized that last night I had witnessed the birth of a LEGACY!
The journey to this legacy began more than 20 years ago with Dominique Dawes; Olympian, Gold Medalist, Legend. In 1996 the Summer Olympics was held here in Atlanta and there were many things that made the event monumental for me. Besides the fact that it was in my home state AND it was the first (hopefully not only) Olympics that I had attended, there was also the Muhammad Ali torch lighting moment and the Magnificent 7 Team Gold in women’s gymnastics. I remember how my hopes were doused when I couldn’t get tickets to the event and feeling that I had to ‘settle’ for watching on television. But as I watched the competition unfold, there was a moment when the camera zoomed in on Dominque’s face as she prepared for her floor routine, I recall thinking I had the best seat in the house. I have that snap shot of her expression ingrained in my memory. As I marveled at the intensity on her face and I thought to myself, “that is the face of a champion”… and I was right. Fast forward to last night and I had that EXACT same thought when I saw Gabby’s face as she prepared for her final rotation on the floor exercise…and I was right again.
I’m not saying that I have an uncanny ability to recognize champions, but I can certainly say that I know the face of determination when I see it. I know what its like to need to be three times as good to get half as much credit. And to make every possible sacrifice to accomplish your hopes and dreams. I clearly understand what it means to be the underdog and to be under-estimated by the outside world. I have personally experienced standing shoulder to shoulder with the best, yet having my abilities still questioned. And I have also had the pleasure of silencing the nay-sayers with results and a smile! I know all too well the face of determination, I along with every Black woman have worn it my entire life…its why winning is all the sweeter for many of us.
I don’t believe I could have written a post about Gabby without mentioning Dominque, in my mind the pair is synonymously cemented in the history books, we wouldn’t have a legacy with them both. As I scoured the internet this morning I was elated to see that the press shared my perspective, and in the midst of all the Gabby fan fare there was proper homage paid to Dominique, after all she was the FIRST. And because of Dawes’ fearless approach, she clearly won’t be the last. Gabby Douglas sited Dawes as her inspiration to “Go For Gold”, now the question becomes who will Gabby inspire?