Gabby Douglas: 'Gold medals are made out of sweat, blood and tears'

Fresh from her historic gold medal win in the Olympic gymnastics individual all-around, Gabby Douglas talks about the hard work and sacrifice it took to get there and about making history as the first African-American woman to win the all-around title.

When U.S. Olympian Gabby Douglas broke into the record books Thursday by becoming the first African-American woman to win the all-around gymnastics gold, it was a moment of glory that wasn’t reached without a lot of sacrifice.

 Douglas told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie on Friday that she hasn’t stopped smiling since standing on her podium to accept her medal. “I could barely sleep last night,” she said.
Douglas credits her coach, Liang Chow, with helping her focus. She began training with him when she was 14, moving from her home in Virginia Beach, Va., to be closer to his gym in West Des Moines, Iowa. She lived in Des Moines with a host family and trained alongside 2008 Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson.
“I just want people to know it took a lot," she said. "It took a lot of hard days in the gym and determination, passion and drive. Gold medals are made out of your sweat, blood and tears, and effort in the gym every day, and sacrificing a lot that you have to do.”
When Douglas hit the competition floor Thursday, Chow provided a reassuring presence during the finals. 

"I remember Chow telling me just stay calm, remain focused and the results will come up by themselves,” she said.
Douglas thrilled the crowd with her radiant smile, impressive tumbling and mastery of everything from the balance beam to the uneven bars. Her score of 62.232 kept her at the top of the leader board, and she kept an eye on it as her competitors completed their routines.

“I was like, 'Okay, do I have the gold, do I have the silver, what do I have?''' she said. "And it was a crucial moment. My heart was just pounding, and it was definitely nerve wracking. I was like, 'OK, do I have it, do I not?'”

She had it, and is honored to make history. Her victory also marked the first time the U.S. women have ever won the team gold and the individual all-around gold in the same Olympics.

“It’s so meaningful to be the first African-American to win the all-around gold medal in the individual and making the history books is definitely one of the perks,'' she said. "It just feels amazing.”

In a week that has brought two gold medals, she also received a very special invitation. After Douglas and her team won gold earlier in the week they got a call from President Barack Obama. “He was just telling us that he was so proud of us and keep up the good work, and we should come visit him at the White House sometime,” she said.

She has received another familiar perk of Olympic stars - her image now graces the front of a Kellogg's Corn Flakes box. 

Read More:

Video: Gabby Douglas is welcomed by gymnastics legends Mary Lou Retton, Carly Patterson, and Nastia Liukin

Golden Gabby! Read Shawn Johnson's analysis of gymnastics all-around finals

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Rubio offers bill to waive taxes on Olympic medals, winnings

U.S. gymnast's lucky towel gains fans, helps him take bronze

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What a lovely, talented and smart young woman. I hope she excels in whatever she decides to do with her life in the future.

  • 23 votes
Reply#1 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 10:40 AM EDT

Well said. She seems like a class act and I'm hoping we get to see more of her in Rio 2016. Congrats to this wonderful young lady.

  • 11 votes
#1.1 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 1:12 PM EDT

I'm just shocked that the gold medals don't actually have any gold in them.

  • 6 votes
#1.2 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 1:36 PM EDT

She looks like Oprah Winfrey.

  • 2 votes
#1.3 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 2:24 PM EDT

the gold medals do have gold, they are silver medals covered in pure gold, total worth about 7 or 8 hundred bucks.

    #1.4 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 8:04 PM EDT

    She looks like Oprah Winfrey.

    Really? Really?

    Stupid comment. Yep all those colored folk look alike.

    It would take 3 of her to equal one Oprah.

      #1.5 - Sun Aug 5, 2012 1:39 AM EDT

      I hate to break it to you Gabby, but according to President Obama, you didn't do that. Now, please send me my part of those gold medals. After all they're not really yours, you didn't earn them and whatever you may be allowed to keep of them should be solely by the grace of our government.

        #1.6 - Sun Aug 5, 2012 8:54 AM EDT

        She may look like Oprah, but Oprah is older and should be wiser. Give her time though, and she my well eclipse Oprah.

          #1.7 - Sun Aug 5, 2012 9:25 PM EDT

          Actually, Mike, it was Mittens who told the Olympians they didn't do that. Sooo, yeah, don't ignore one to try to make the other the greater evil.

            #1.8 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 10:14 AM EDT

            Gabby Douglas is a class above so many blacks who despise or are jealous of Barack Obama. Gabby gives credit to her coaches and her mom and her own blood, sweat and tears. Lies are being spread that president Obama has said disparaging things about Gabby and others have made comments about her hair, while Fox showcased non-chanting of USA, USA! Fox complained that the uniforms don't carry the Stars and Stripes on the uniforms as in past years. Bringing forth David Webb from Sirius radio and co-founder of TEA Party 365 to complain about showing pride as if FOX and this David Webb are the only ones showing pride? This is the extremes taking Gabby's excellent performance and making it theirs to bastardize into their own private little world. At Gabby's expense! I personally am ashamed of how our representatives in Congress and TV personalities have acted in Congress, state houses and on TV and radio here lately. There is a true differentiation between president Obama and Romney, as there is between FOX and other mainstream news outlets. The president's opposition have tried to take every ding they can by trying to make the flag, patriotism, God and Country as if they are the only ones who can do it right. They are wrong!

            To all the commoners, it's more than Romney that needs to be taken care of. The Toxic Eradication Activist(TEA) party have taken hold of local and state communities, and that is where real results can be effected.

              #1.9 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 11:47 PM EDT

              Go Gabby! What women are made of. My hero

              • 15 votes
              Reply#2 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 10:53 AM EDT

              This is a beautiful, amazing young lady! I am so proud of her efforts and that she represents the USA! I wish Gabby the absolute best in all of her future endeavors.

              • 14 votes
              Reply#3 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 11:03 AM EDT

              Thank you Gabby, you make us all Americans proud!

              • 15 votes
              Reply#4 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 11:04 AM EDT

              Congratulations to a beautiful, determined and very talented young woman. But why must we always bring race into everything? She's an AMERICAN period! Who honestly cares what color her skin is???

              • 12 votes
              Reply#5 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 11:10 AM EDT

              Hi Hiwoods,

              In a perfect world sure, you're right. Race shouldn't matter. But for minorities, knowing that someone from your "category" has "made it" is enormous. Look at swimming. Lots of black folk can't even swim. Having Cullen Jones on the team is huge. We are often told "you can't do that. Its nice when someone succeeds.

              Think of Sally ride. What if she was a faceless techy that hid her gender? People all around the world change their perceptions because of pioneers like Gabby, Sally, Billy Jean, Jesse Owens, Orville and Wilbur Write. .

              When I was a kid, and it wasn't that long ago, the only black women you saw in movies or on TV were maids, prostitutes, or junkies. Race will be an issue (as will gender, religion, nationality, sexual preference, until it is not an issue.

              The majority doesn't really understand what its like to be "other". If you think race doesn't matter, just look at the different reactions to Lochte's dental girl, and Trevon Martin's. Neither looks particularly charming, but no one is calling Lochte a thug that deserves to be shot.

              Sadly, race still is an issue. Besides, often "firsts" should be something to celebrate. It acknowledges how far we have come. We used to be an earth bound species, until we had a "first man on the moon". We used to be a more segregated society, and now we have have our first African American gold-medal toting gymnast.
              Good for Gabby, and good for us!
              Just saying

              • 7 votes
              #5.1 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 2:11 PM EDT

              There are lots of white folks who can't swim as well. I am pretty sure there are folks of EVERY color and nationality that can't swim. Just sayin'.

              • 2 votes
              #5.2 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 5:50 PM EDT

              Hampton Roads is so proud of you Gabby! Poise, class, not to mention your amazing abilities and talent! Keep smiling, you are beautiful.

              Lauren in Norfolk

              • 10 votes
              Reply#6 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 11:40 AM EDT

              I will second this comment! We are so proud of you. Keep up the good work. I hope to see you at Rio in 2016.

              Jane from Suffolk

              • 3 votes
              #6.1 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 4:09 PM EDT

              I don't know how to say this without sounding like I'm not acknowledging the sacrifices and hard work of every US athlete and their family have made, but this sweet dynamite of an athlete and her family have touched my heart. When I read about all the sacrifices her mom and her family made for this dream its just awe inspiring and I'm so glad that all of this girl's dreams came true.

              Kudos to Gabby and her family - especially to her single mother who did everything to help her daughter realize her dream and help her achieve her goals.

              and to ALL the athletes out there and their families. YOU are all more amazing than any movie actor/actress/president/celebu-tante/professional sports player (yes I'm looking at you USA Basketball) and you make us all proud! Go WORLD!

              • 9 votes
              Reply#7 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 11:54 AM EDT

              I am from Virginia Beach and I am soooo happy for her!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Way to go Gabby!

              • 7 votes
              Reply#8 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 11:56 AM EDT

              The biggest history note here is that she is the first U.S. gymnast to win team and all around invididual gold in one Olympics. Outstanding!

              @HiWoods, your sentiments are understandable but firsts of any kind are important and should be celebrated because someone may identify with that individual and be inspired. Case in point, Gabby has mentioned how inspired she was to see old footage of Dominique Dawes. In years to come, we will likely hear of some African American girl who will cite Gabby's accomplishment as an inspiration.

              • 10 votes
              Reply#9 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 11:58 AM EDT

              I just love Gabby Douglas! What a precious, mature, well spoken girl. She is a joy to watch during her competitions, and makes me feel proud to have her representing the USA. She has a bright future ahead of her, which is well deserved. How rewarding for her and for her family to know all the hard work and sacrifices paid off. She is an inspiration!!!! Makes me want to hit the gym just to get in better shape!

              • 10 votes
              Reply#10 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 12:18 PM EDT

              Gabby Douglas is precious! What an inspiration to all Americans. I feel so honored to have this bright, beautiful, articulate little sweetheart of a girl representing the USA. I loved watching her compete. She is just a joy to watch! She has a bright, well deserved future ahead of her. All her hard work, determination and sacrifices for both she and her family paid off. Well Done Gabby! You deserve all the good things coming your way!!!

              • 11 votes
              Reply#11 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 12:23 PM EDT

              Gabby congratulations to you on your win. I know that you are elated and I too am smiling. Thank you for sharing your talent with the world and with those of us who are hearing about you for the first time. You are the perfect example of how using your talent and positive attitude can be a blessing. You pulled yourself away from all the negativity to show the world that if you stay focused and motivated that nothing is impossible to achieve.

              I saw how the other girls call themselves shutting you out during the team photo while accepting the team gold medal but you knew did not allow that to take away your positive attitude or kill your spirit. You came back strong and show how to take negativity and use it to make you strong. God put you on the stage alone and you had all the cameras on you. You my sister are a part of history because you made history.

              You are a gifted, talented, spiritual, articulate and strong young woman. You are the best; don't rush life; just savory each mossel because the best is yet to come. Stay humble, always look to God, your mother and family for guidance and everything is going to be ok.

              • 5 votes
              Reply#12 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 12:32 PM EDT

              Bravo, Gabby, on being an Olympian and winning your gold medal! You're beautiful inside and out!

              • 7 votes
              Reply#13 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 12:35 PM EDT

              What an awesome performance and from all accounts a wonderful person as well.

              I am a bit perplexed about how gymnastics "works" from a mental standpoint. Why do the gymnasts not watch each other's routines and scores? I always feel that knowledge is power, and knowing what and how well your competition is doing is a key part of any competition. Maybe someone with a better knowledge of the gymnastics "scene" can fill me in on this.

              One more thing - the article says "She has received another familiar perk of Olympic stars - her image now graces the front of a Kellogg's Corn Flakes box. " I thought amazing winning athletes were put on the front of the Wheaties box!

              • 1 vote
              Reply#14 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 12:59 PM EDT

              Wonderful performances - true athlete but that being said, she needs an English coach. She is going to speak to audiences of all backgrounds. She should refrain from using "definitely" every other word when she speaks. Also, some other phrases were used incorrectly. I just want everyone to think highly of her in all aspects.

              • 2 votes
              Reply#15 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 1:00 PM EDT

              I was waiting for a "sour puss" to come along and post something negative!

              *CONGRATS GABBY!!!

              • 9 votes
              #15.1 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 1:34 PM EDT

              I don't think anyone was too focused on whether or not this incredible 16 year old was grammatically correct- that was not the focus- her performance was!

              People always look for the negative!

              • 5 votes
              #15.2 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 1:43 PM EDT

              @satoday, Considering that she is pleasant, positive and grateful for the opportunity she has been given, I think we can overlook her tendency to speak like a 16 yr old. Oh, wait....She IS 16.....

              • 7 votes
              #15.3 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 1:54 PM EDT

              apparently you've neve been introduced to the linquistics of a 16 year old. I'm willing to bet she had no idea she was doing that in her interview. We're doing the couch olympics and she's flipping over a 4 inch wide piece of wood. Give the kid a break!

              • 8 votes
              #15.4 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 1:55 PM EDT


              Have a bit of an OCD issue?

                #15.5 - Sun Aug 5, 2012 1:42 AM EDT

                @satoday............You're one of those people who'd find something wrong with a "wet dream". How about listing some of your own accomplishments here?

                  #15.6 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 7:44 PM EDT

                  From an American point of view, I'm sure that Gabby and her Fab Five teammates will be remembered as the #1 story of the 2012 Summer Olympics. They are truly an inspiration to America.

                  • 1 vote
                  Reply#16 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 1:00 PM EDT

                  Congratulations and Thank You. may the rest of your life bring you many more successes.

                  • 2 votes
                  Reply#17 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 1:03 PM EDT

                  Congratulations Gabby! All of us in Virginia Beach are proud of you!

                  • 3 votes
                  Reply#18 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 1:12 PM EDT

                  All the athletes have to sacrifice. But because this person is black, it's the greatest thing to happen since gasoline went back under $4 a gallon. There have been other athletes in American Olympic history who have done great things, or better, but they don't get the same, "oh wow" and "they're the greatest", etc. Phelps just set a medal record and everyone was just "ho-hum". This is 2012 people not 1912. Also years and years ago the USA was not really given a chance in gymnastics by the judges, but that has changed. There have been many fantastic gymnasts in the past, but they weren't recognized as were the Russians and Chinnese and Germans. One person on posted after Douglas won and said, " I knew she was going to win that award". I knew the sun was coming up today too, but everyone always says that about someone or some team winning after they have won. And again, Phelps has won 20 medals over his years in the Olympics, but the other day many people were bashing him. Why was that? I know why, but if I say it, I will be "labeled".

                  • 2 votes
                  Reply#19 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 1:25 PM EDT


                  • 2 votes
                  #19.1 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 1:35 PM EDT

                  Good points made, noticed that Gabby didn't mention Mary Lou, Carly or Nastia as role models....kinda weird. Congratulations on both gold medals !!! Well Done !

                  • 2 votes
                  #19.2 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 1:40 PM EDT

                  nickbo13, Are you about 13 years old? Not one person mentioned her hard work as particularly unusual. It applies to virtually ALL of the athletes. Your problem with why she is getting seemingly special attention is rooted in your ignorance of real life. Every US woman that wins Olympic gold in gymnastics is given undue adulation. Precisely in part for the reasons you point out: that US gymnasts were often overlooked or outright screwed by biased judges. Do you recall the term "America's Sweetheart"? It is given to the woman that wins the All Around gold in gymnastics. No one expected Gabby Douglass to win this medal in her first Olympics, so her success is big news. Michael Phelps is a 27 year old man competing in his third Olympics, so excuse the world for not being shocked that he won some more medals. What exactly is your REAL motivation?

                  • 5 votes
                  #19.3 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 2:04 PM EDT

                  ddhldh2164, Are you serious? Kinda weird that she didn't mention Mary Lou, Carly or Nastia? Really? You think it odd that she mentioned one of the few Black women that competed in gymnastics for the US in recent years?

                  • 3 votes
                  #19.4 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 2:07 PM EDT

                  I'm with you NB,
                  For ddhldh(numbers), Lot's of kids are told that they can't do "x" because until now, there has never been another: woman, black, handicapped person, lefty, Asian, American, short-person, working-class back-ground person, white person (remember how excited the world was about vanilla ice and the Beasty boys?) to have done something.

                  My sister is a scientist. Among others, one of her role models was Madam Curie. Why? because she was a woman, in a male dominated field. Why is that so hard to grasp? Pioneers should be an inspiration to us all.

                  Go Gabby! Good for you!

                  • 1 vote
                  #19.5 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 2:58 PM EDT

                  Am I 13? Are you for real? Same old, same old, a person can't express his opinion, unless it goes with the majority. I know life, I'm 64 and have been around. Ignorance or experience don't have a thing to do with my post. Maybe you're the one who is 13.

                    #19.6 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 4:57 PM EDT

                    sweat? blood? tears? dear freakin god, if that's what gold medals are made of, i'm so happy i don't have one. cause that is just truly gross and disgusting.

                      Reply#20 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 1:27 PM EDT

                      I am a gabby fan and glad she did so well but I feel that Komova had a much better floor exercise routine andher score should have been much higher. seems the international community feels the same too.

                        Reply#21 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 1:32 PM EDT

                        Sure Komova's floor routine was amazing, but don't forget her bad dismount on the vault where she took like 3-4 steps. All routines taken into account, Gabby clearly outperformed Komova.

                        • 4 votes
                        #21.1 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 2:34 PM EDT

                        We love Gabby!

                        If compared side-to-side, each rotation, Gabby DEFINITELY beat Komova. That was indeed evident on the very first rotation, the vault. And Gabby went first! The hardest spot! Yes, Komova was good and did a couple of super routines, but Gabby did FOUR super routines!

                          #21.2 - Sat Aug 4, 2012 10:29 AM EDT

                          If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a gold medal, you didn’t earn that. Somebody else made that happen.

                          See how cluelss Obama is? America provides the yarn, for sure. What you knit is up to you. In this case, Gabby knitted a gold medal. What a success story. What an American. Go Gabby!

                          • 6 votes
                          Reply#22 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 1:35 PM EDT


                          Are you making the President's argument for him on purpose, are you even more clueless than you are accusing him of being?

                          Go to a country with out infrastructure, you will see how hard it is to do anything. I'll recommend Sudan. Good luck on that. "American Exceptionalism" works much better when our collective resources are behind us and supporting us.

                          As for the US now, because we have so few sports programs in our public schools, Gabby had to travel far from home in order to train. Think of all of the "could have been" stars that will never shine, because we have deciding to not fund these programs anymore.

                          And I'll bet ya, Gabby's coaches gym, and the program that she trained in, and the plane that took her to the Olympics were all subsidized by our collective government. Calling them "socialism" and ending these programs is cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.

                          It takes a village.

                          • 4 votes
                          #22.1 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 2:24 PM EDT

                          Wow, there must have been plenty of kool aid at the Socialists USA breakfast buffet this morning. I suggest a good nights sleep, and then maybe some therapy. If it takes a village, then you must be the village idiot.

                          • 1 vote
                          #22.2 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 2:31 PM EDT

                          Jack coyote,

                          This a joyful time for the U.S. Your hatred-laced diatribe speaks badly for you as an American. Your comments are shameful and should be decried by all decent citizens. Have you no shame??

                          • 1 vote
                          #22.3 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 3:08 PM EDT

                          Hi Jack!

                          "Village idiot"? Ouch! What did I say? What did I say?
                          Do you really think that this young woman paid for this whole sheebang by her self? I didn't get the feeling that her family was rich. They made all kinds of sacrifices, but that alone would not be enough. We pay for some of these programs through our taxes. I think that's great. That's why we can feel proud along with her. We are (to a degree) part of the team.

                          I feel sorry for kids in school now, because so many programs have been cut to save money. My former high school no longer offers swimming, gymnastics or dance. Even music and foreign languages have been cut back to about 10% of what was offered when I was in school. Was that socialism? Are we, and will we become better off as we cut more programs?

                          PS, don't be so angry. This is only a comment vine. Besides, even village idiots sometimes have an opinion worth listing to.

                          • 1 vote
                          #22.4 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 3:10 PM EDT

                          At least the athletes admit they got the support they needed unlike some people.

                            #22.5 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 7:12 PM EDT

                            Hey maninjapan78 and rufus: I am with the Coyote on this one. It's inherently understood that everybody gets help in life. So what is your point? Good going for Gabby. What would you prefer she do? Put in a PSA for more "gubmint"?

                            Anybody, repeat anybody, that votes the the toxic fraud, obama, is either:
                            1) unfit to vote
                            2) treasonous, just like the toxic fraud.

                              #22.6 - Sat Aug 4, 2012 6:22 PM EDT

                              I'm a fan of Gabby and I agree that gold medals are made out of sweat, blood, and tears. People going home with no medals also spent sweat, blood, and tears too though.

                              • 2 votes
                              Reply#23 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 2:11 PM EDT

                              With such poise, optimism, vision, determination, and hard work Gabby has not only sent a message about her gymnastic abilities - she sent out a clear message about her ability to handle life in general. I will be very curious to see what she does with her future. What a special young woman.

                              • 4 votes
                              Reply#24 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 2:26 PM EDT

                              Sweat, blood, and tears. That would make a great name for a rock band.

                              • 2 votes
                              Reply#25 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 2:27 PM EDT
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