Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas said she was so affected by bullies that she considered quitting gymnastics.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, which aired last night, Douglas, 16, opened up about feeling bullied and isolated by her teammates at her Virginia Beach gym. She said they even sometimes used racial slurs.
“One of my teammates was like, ‘Could you scrape the bar?'” Douglas, joined by her mother, told Winfrey during the interview. “And they were like, ‘Why doesn’t Gabby do it, she’s our slave?’
“When she was 14, she said, ‘I’d rather quit. If I can’t move and train and get another coach, I’d rather quit the sport,'” Natalie Hawkins, Douglas’ mother said.
But the bullying didn’t necessarily end, even after Douglas more than proved her worth when she qualified for the 2012 London Games. During the Olympics, Douglas said she was shocked to learn that her hair, often pulled back into a bun, was a point of contention for Internet critics. She was lambasted for straightening her hair, which was seen by some as a failure to represent the African-American community. But, reported US Weekly, Douglas and her mother learned to laugh about such criticism rather than take it to heart.
Douglas went on to win two gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics.