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Gabby Douglas wins: A milestone hardly noticed
On Thursday night, Americans were treated to the sight of the bedazzling Gabrielle Douglas, all of 16 years old and 4’11’’ tall, spin, tumble, leap and “stick” her way to a gold metal in women’s gymnastics at the Olympic Games in London. It was a performance all the more memorable because of the charming smile and tremendous attitude of the little, sequined star who stole the world’s heart with her grace, charm and stunning ability.
Almost lost in the magic of the evening was a little historical tidbit. Douglas is the first and only African-American woman to win an individual gold medal in gymnastics. (Dominique Dawes won a team gold in 1996.)
For the most part, this nugget of Olympic trivia was noted as an aside. People magazine’s website referenced the “history” in a headline about Douglas’ win, but didn’t say what the history was until the end of the story. Many of the stories focused primarily on Douglas’ performance, the challenges she faced in rising to the top of her sport, and her future prospects. That is a positive change from the days not so long ago when an athlete’s race was a more prominent point of discussion.
Perhaps some Americans were pulling for Gabrielle Douglas on Thursday night because of her skin color. We suspect, and the news coverage suggests, that most were pulling for her for a far better reason: because she was one of us — an American. For the country, one might say that is an even bigger win.
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