Posts Tagged ‘Travis and Missy Parton’

The White World of Sports: What Gabby Douglas’ vault into Olympic history means

August 3, 2012

Late last night, minutes after NBC aired the much-anticipated cuticle-picker that was the Olympic women’s all-around gymnastics finals—hours after the event actually took place, of course—the broadcast director cut from an on-floor interview with gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas to a broadcast booth somewhere nearby. In it sat longtime NBC commentator and sports journalism veteran Bob Costas, his prime-time-friendly, man-child hairdo in perfect position.

“You know, it’s a happy measure of how far we’ve come that it doesn’t seem all that remarkable, but still it’s noteworthy, Gabby Douglas is, as it happens, the first African-American to win the women’s all-around in gymnastics,” Costas intoned, his besuited left elbow resting comfortably on the anchor desk. “The barriers have long since been down, but sometimes there can be an imaginary barrier, based on how one might see oneself.”

In a political and cultural environment in which the patriotism—the very Americanness—of people of color (including the current president of the United States) is often called into question, Costas’s scripted deep thought—his “little homily,” as one Twitterer called it—was at worst dishonest, at best naive. What leveled barriers, I wondered, was Mr. Costas referring to? Who, excepting the most Pollyanna-ish or cloistered of cultural observers—the type who assert the legitimacy of phrases like “post-racial”—would believe that Gabby Douglas’ challenges were primarily psychic, a statement that can be contradicted by pretty much any news story or feature profile on the 16-year old gymnast, all of which make no secret of the undeniable whiteness of being that is high-level American gymnastics? “Bob Costas just re-affirmed that the success of a black person means we’re not racist anymore.THANK GOD THAT’S OVER,” wrote the political writer Ana Marie Cox. A few moments later she offered a revision of sorts: “Ok what he said was ‘a barrier has fallen’ or somesuch but one person over the wall does not a fallen barrier make. TAKES NOTHING FROM GABS.”

Costas, of course, did have a point: Our ideas about ourselves, no matter our color, often prove as limiting and toxic as the external and institutional roadblocks put in our way. But you can’t have one without the other. In this, Douglas’ triumph seems extremely remarkable, both because of the commonality of her situation—the big dreams, the economic hardships, the one-parent household—and its unusualness: a minority in a historically “white” sport.

On that last point: In January, a fact sheet released by the National Women’s Law Center reported that less than two-thirds of African-American and Hispanic girls play sports, while more than three-quarters of Caucasian girls do. And a 2007 diversity study commissioned by USA Gymnastics, the national governing body for the sport in the U.S., said that just 6.61 percent of the participants in American gymnastics programs were black (10.67 percent are Asian and 74.46 percent are Caucasian). Members of USA Gymnastics—coaches, judges or athletes who participate in its sanctioned events—responded to (and within) the survey in a variety of ways, many of them unsympathetic: “This is just another example of political correctness gone CRAZY!” Said another: “As a middle class, white Christian male, is the NBA doing any “reach out” programs to me and my family?” And another advised: “Start programs in low income areas. Once people understand you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to teach and coach gymnastics, it will flourish. We are too elitist to appeal to the masses.”

Read the rest:–what-gabby-

U.S. gymnast Gabrielle Douglas performs on the balance beam during the artistic gymnastics women's individual all-around competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

U.S. gymnast Gabrielle Douglas performs on the balance beam during the artistic gymnastics women’s individual all-around competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, in London

By Anna Holmes. Anna Holmes is the founder of She’s also the author of “Hell Hath No Fury: Women’s Letters From the End of the Affair.” (Ballantine, 2002)


Gabby Douglas’ 2 Mothers Watch Her Make Olympic History (Video)

August 3, 2012

Gabby Douglas has made history at the Olympics, edging out her competition to win the most coveted title in all of women’s gymnastics – a gold medal in the women’s individual all-around competition – and a gold medal in the team competition. It was no easy accomplishment to reach that podium as the star gymnast left behind life as she knew it to make her Olympic dream a reality.


Gabrielle Douglas

Gabby Douglas: 4’11″, 90 pounds, “The Flying Squirrel”

Two years ago, Douglas, then a 14-year-old from Virginia Beach, Va., took a leap of faith. “She said, ‘I really need to have a change in my coaching’ … and said ‘I want Natalie Hawkins,,'” Douglas’ mother, Natalie Hawkins, recalled.

By ANTHONY CASTELLANO | Good Morning America

Chow had coached Shawn Johnson to Olympic gold four years ago in Beijing, and Douglas thought he would be the coach to catapult the rising gymnast to the Olympic stardom she so desperately craved. There was one problem; he lived more than 1,200 miles away in Des Moines, Iowa.

Hawkins, a single mom, was faced with the impossibly difficult decision of whether she should let her youngest daughter move halfway across the country.

“So, [Gabby] said, ‘Well, I’ll go by myself,’ and I said, ‘Do you understand what you’re saying?'” said Hawkins. “There was just one thing. It was that we would miss her.”

Above: London 2012 Olympic Gymnastics all-around gold medalist Gabby Douglas receives her very own special edition box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes which will hit stores this Fall, on day 7 of the 2012 London Olympic Games on August 3, 2012 in London, England.

(Credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images for Kelloggs)

Douglas’ sisters Arielle and Joy helped convince their mom that letting her go was necessary. After much hesitation and wavering, Hawkins relented and sent her.

The cross-country move was made easier thanks in part to Travis and Missy Parton, who took Douglas in to live with them and their four daughters in West Des Moines, Iowa, after Douglas’ first host family didn’t work out.

Parton, whose daughter Leah was also taking gymnastics lessons with Chow, was one of several families who had volunteered to host Douglas. Missy Parton welcomed her as one of her own daughters.

“She went from being the baby in her house to being the oldest in my house, and it took her a little time to kind of get used to,” said Parton, whose daughters Hailey, 10, Leah and Lexi, 7, and Elissa, 6, quickly bonded with Douglas. For Hawkins, it was a huge relief to know her daughter was in Parton’s caring hands.

“I relied on Missy a lot during that time I would call her a lot and say ‘How’s she doing?'” said Hawkins. “You just fall in love with her right away,” Parton said of Douglas.

Together they raised an Olympian and found a lifelong friendship.

Hawkins told Parton: “I can’t imagine her without you guys now because it really is like mom one, mom two.”

On Thursday night, it was both overwhelming and awe-inspiring for both women to watch as Douglas captured the gold medal in the all-around individual competition. Douglas is not only the first gymnast to win both the all-around and the gold in the team competition, but she’s the first African American all-around champion in Olympic history.

Watching from the sidelines together, both hanging on her every move, were mom one and mom two.

“At times I was like wait a minute, whose kid is this hers or mine?” Hawkins said jokingly.

Now, Douglas will be a household name. She has already received praise from millions, including President Obama and Oprah Winfrey, who posted on Twitter Thursday, “OMG I’m so THRILLED for Gabby. Flowing happy tears!!”

“She made history on several many different levels. It makes me think the sky is the limit,” said Hawkins.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02:  Gabrielle Douglas of the United States competes on the balance beam in the Artistic Gymnastics Women's Individual All-Around final on Day 6 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena on August 2, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)