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:

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

Why (some) Olympic athletes still embrace the scrunchie

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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Such a sweet young lady. Congrats and I hope life keeps dishing out medals for you!

  • 2 votes
Reply#29 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 2:48 PM EDT

Good for her! It was an amazing performance and she never lost that lovely smile. I hope she has a fantastic future now.

Too bad the Russian girls both looked like they were sucking lemons all the time. Ali Raisman should have gotten the bronze.

  • 2 votes
Reply#30 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 2:51 PM EDT

Congrats Gabby, your just... Perfect. Your success will inspire others.. Very well done. Hope to see more of your beautiful talent in the future.

  • 2 votes
Reply#31 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 3:03 PM EDT

Bravo, Gabby! really are the Flying Squirrel!!! You go, Girl!!!! :):) Congrats!!!

  • 2 votes
Reply#32 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 4:02 PM EDT

I am so Proud of Gabby, our Local Hero. You have accomplished so much. Keep doing what God has in store for you. Be Blessed.

  • 2 votes
Reply#33 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 4:27 PM EDT

Congratulations Gabrielle. You've made America and your family proud. I remember an interview where you said Dominique Dawes was your inspiration for entering the sport. After your performance in London, YOU have become an inspiration to my 7 year old African American granddaughter. My daughter and son in law intend to enroll her in a local program. You are a national treasure and I wish you the best in your future endeavors.

  • 2 votes
Reply#34 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 6:28 PM EDT

Congratulation Gabby! You made us all proud! You are amazing!

  • 2 votes
Reply#35 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 6:41 PM EDT

Where is Gabby's father? I'm sure he has something to say about her spectacular performance.

  • 1 vote
Reply#36 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 9:16 PM EDT

I have always been particularly impressed by the gymnasts. Their sacrifices, their skills, the risks, the strength, the incredible balance and artistry. If any sport requires every aspect of fitness and courage, this is it.

I loved Gabby as soon as I saw her first routine. Her joy and excitement just shines. Her smile lights up the world. She beautiful, talented, determined and willing to work incredibly hard to realize her dreams. I can't think of a better role model for young women.

The down side of the Olympics is that there is only one gold medal. I can't help sympathising with all of the young athletes who worked so hard and didn't win. I know someone has to be best, but what a disappointment for the others. So while we praise Gabby (and I do) spare a thought or two for all those athletes who didn't quite make a medal. Their disappointment must be overwhelming.

  • 1 vote
Reply#37 - Fri Aug 3, 2012 10:09 PM EDT

There will always be those who didn't make the mark, nevertheless what they take home with them is the accomplishments they made to get there and if it be so, to use it as an incentive to not give up, work hard and return to the Olympics to do it again. It is still a fulfillment in more ways than none because they made it there.

    #37.1 - Sat Aug 4, 2012 1:29 PM EDT

    Sorry, was your granddaughter born in America?

      #37.2 - Sat Aug 25, 2012 7:56 AM EDT

      I seriously doubt they were too disappointed, they did make the Olympics. That takes skill and dedication that most couldn't dream of, I would rather lose at the olympics than win in some YMCA tournament. I'm sure they are all proud just to have had the oppurtunity.

        #37.3 - Sat Aug 25, 2012 7:59 AM EDT
        Comment author avatarJessie Karanguvia Facebook

        Gabby could be making $90 million after the Olympics are over!

          Reply#38 - Sat Aug 4, 2012 12:15 AM EDT

          So proud of Gabby! I'm reminded that regardless of all that's wrong in our country, I would not want to live in any other. #teamgabbyalltheway

          • 1 vote
          Reply#39 - Sat Aug 4, 2012 1:32 AM EDT

          Congrats to Gabby Douglas, glad you made it. I was really pushing for you. I never doubted you wasn't the best. You had courage, and you worked hard. I am very glad for you.

          I hope you have more wonderful days ahead. Just keep a level head as you did with this sport you love so well, and I believe you'll reach your other goals ahead.

          Don't know you personally, but wishing you well.

            Reply#40 - Sat Aug 4, 2012 6:58 AM EDT

            So very proud of you Gabby. Grate performances. I cannot stop watching you and will definitely buy the video when it comes out. Keep grounded and remember put Jesus first because he gave you the strength, mind and ability to get you to your dream, and the sacrifice you and your family went through to get you to where you are today. I hope they make a movie of your life journey. I will be following your progress in the future. Luv ya sista xxx

            • 1 vote
            Reply#41 - Sat Aug 4, 2012 1:32 PM EDT

            We should also be talking about who paved the way into the record books. Charles Lakes was the first African American gymnast to compete in the Olympics. He also had some of the highest flying release moves on high bar that I have ever seen!

              Reply#42 - Sat Aug 4, 2012 3:14 PM EDT

              He wasnt African American, hes never seen Africa, he was born in California, U.S.A.. He was an American citizen. You want to abolish racism? Stop treating people like they are different.

              • 1 vote
              #42.1 - Sat Aug 25, 2012 7:50 AM EDT

              Way to go girl,

                Reply#43 - Sat Aug 4, 2012 4:22 PM EDT

                I'm sorry, you have to be an American citizen to compete, and if she is a citizen she is NOT an African American. She is not a nationalized citizen from Africa so she is an American and nothing more. Its sickening seeing this kind of disrespect in the mainstream media. If you are born here you are an American and any prefix is RACIST. She is representing America as a unified country and calling an American citizen, much less an Olympiad, anything else is demeaning.

                • 1 vote
                Reply#44 - Sun Aug 5, 2012 12:33 AM EDT

                I don't call myself a English-Irish American.....But I am very proud of her as a young American pulling overall gold, takes alot of work to achieve this kind of level.

                • 1 vote
                Reply#45 - Sun Aug 5, 2012 12:34 AM EDT

                Congrad. Gabby, and you didn't do it through hard work, someone had to help you, who built the roads you drove to practice on?, who invented the cell phone you use to call on ?

                Bottom line hard work, isn't the answer , government is!" Barry O"

                  Reply#46 - Sun Aug 5, 2012 9:36 PM EDT

                  Great Job Gabby and USA Team.

                    Reply#47 - Mon Aug 6, 2012 8:10 AM EDT

                    Wow everyone is so in love with Gabby, and giving her all kinds of compliments. Phelps (from the USA) set a record for most medals won and he got about 10 nice comments about it. Why is that?

                    • 1 vote
                    Reply#48 - Thu Aug 9, 2012 3:25 AM EDT

                    Phelps is pretty much a professional athlete.

                    At this point Gabby is a true amateur, with all the energy that brings.

                      #48.1 - Thu Aug 9, 2012 10:25 AM EDT

                      Is that right? Phelps is pretty much a professional athlete. I don't think he swims for a living, do you? Even if he was a pro, is that any reason to slight him? You know the real reason why Douglas is being worshipped and Phelps isn't. Everyone knows why, but are too afraid to say it.

                        #48.2 - Thu Aug 9, 2012 4:29 PM EDT

                        I don't think he swims for a living, do you?

                        Yes I do.

                        How else do you figure be came to be worth $40-$50 million dollars?

                        Not slighting him, there is just a certain emotional feeling when a young amateur performs so well. The excitement that Gabby has shown is contagious.

                        When Phelps swam in his first Olympics he had the same attention she is receiving now.

                        Everyone knows why, but are too afraid to say it.

                        Because she is young and excited?

                          #48.3 - Thu Aug 9, 2012 8:47 PM EDT

                          Bull. Phelps' occupation is swimming? So because Phelps is older and in his last Olympics, he shouldn't be given the same atteention another gold medal winner is? You know and I know and everyone knows why Phelps is being slighted and Douglas is being treated like a God. You gotta' get real JOregon, you gotta' get real.

                            #48.4 - Thu Aug 9, 2012 10:43 PM EDT

                            You know and I know and everyone knows why Phelps is being slighted and Douglas is being treated like a God.

                            Yes, everyone knows.

                            Phelps is a Professional that makes several millions of dollars a year, she is an Amateur that is just jumping in.

                            Apparently you have your own fantasies as to what it is all about.


                            I cheered for Phelps, I was happy for him, but she warmed my heart.

                            I have 2 boys, 31 and 29. I have 2 girls, 25 and 22.

                            I am proud as to what they are doing with their lives, but I was excited for them when they were young and pumped.

                              #48.5 - Thu Aug 9, 2012 11:39 PM EDT

                              I never said or implied anything about your children. I'm also very proud of my son and daughter. Also, I don't have any kind of fantasies about what anything is about. If you don't have any idea about what I'm talking about, I don't know what to tell you. If I did, my post would be deleted, becuase of theis super polictically correct country. Freedom of speech only applies in certain situations.

                              • 1 vote
                              #48.6 - Fri Aug 10, 2012 1:56 AM EDT

                              I never said or implied anything about your children.

                              That wasn't the point of the comment. When young people first do well we get excited for them.

                              After awhile we are still proud of them, but the excitement becomes less.

                              People are excited for this young girl, just as they were excited for Michael Phelps in 2004.

                              What really gets me in this society is all the people that wear foil hats.

                                #48.7 - Fri Aug 10, 2012 1:58 AM EDT

                                Honestly Phelps has been at it longer than Gabby's been alive, she is still a child, so this is an Amazing achievement, remember that.

                                  #48.8 - Sat Aug 25, 2012 8:04 AM EDT
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