Throughout the past week, social media spectators have picked apart every move gymnast Gabby Douglas made, from not putting her hand over her heart during the national anthem to not cheering on her teammates "enthusiastically enough" during their competitions, not to mention a whole host of other not-cool criticisms about her appearance. (See also: Why Are People Criticizing These Olympic Athletes for Their Looks?)
Unfortunately, this isn't the first time critics have been harsh on Douglas. After she won gold in the all-around gymnastics competition in 2012, she was heavily criticized for some of the same things we're hearing this time around. Her mother, Natalie Hawkins, spoke out about the harsh commentary her daughter has received over the years. "She's had to deal with people criticizing her hair, or people accusing her of bleaching her skin. They said she had breast enhancements, they said she wasn't smiling enough, she's unpatriotic. Then it went to not supporting your team mates. Now you're "Crabby Gabby,'" she told Reuters.
Douglas wasn't able to compete in the all-around individual competition this year because each country can only send two gymnasts, and USA's slots were taken by Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, which was undoubtedly heartbreaking for her. Then, when Douglas finished seventh out of eight in the uneven bars competition, it was clear the Games had come to a disappointing end for her. In a series of interviews afterwards, she expressed how she had hoped to perform better but still had a great experience this time around. "You always want to picture yourself being on top and doing those routines and being amazing," she said. "I pictured it differently, but that's okay because I'm just going to take this experience as a really good, positive one."
And while this may be a less-than-ideal outcome for Douglas, let's not forget she's still walking away with another gold medal from the team gymnastics final last week. She's accomplished so much during her Olympic career and is one of the few gymnasts ever to have won three gold medals, let alone make Team USA more than once.
As we've seen increasingly with social media bullying, we couldn't be happier to see that once this negativity was brought to light, there's been an outpouring of support for Douglas. While there are still plenty of tweets trying to knock her down, on Monday the hashtag #LOVE4GABBYUSA surfaced, along with tons of tweets of encouragement. (For more on bullying, check out 3 Ways to Smack Down a Grown-Up Bully)
Her response to the haters? "I've been through a lot," she added. "I still love them. I still love the people who love me. Still love them who hate me. I'm just going to stand on that." We've got to applaud her for her ability to stay strong and positive in the face of so many people trying to bring her down; that's the mark of a true Olympic champion.