Olympic champion Gabby Douglas sat down with Oprah Winfrey for an episode of Oprah’s Next Chapter, which aired on OWN this past weekend.
During the interview, Gabby opened up to Oprah about being bullied and taunted by her fellow gymnasts while training for the Olympics.
She said that she experienced the most disrespect and isolation at her hometown gym in Virginia Beach, where she told Oprah one girl called her a “slave.”
Gabby, seated alongside her mother Natalie Hawkins, described one incident involving the scraping of the bars in the gym, where one of her fellow gymnasts said, “‘why doesn’t Gabby do it? She’s our slave.”
“I definitely felt isolated. I felt, why am I deserving this?” said Gabby. “Is it because I’m black? Like, those thoughts would go through my mind.”
During a recent interview with E! News, Gustavo Maure, the CEO of Gabby’s former gym, Excalibur Gymnastics, said that the Olympic gold medalist’s remarks “were hurtful and without merit.”
“We’ve had more African-Americans in elite and on the national team than any other gym in the country (5, 2 of them in Olympic Trials or Olympic Team Camp). Her African-American former teammates will answer this serious accusation. (1st statement untruth, she was not the only African American gymnast training in the gym) We are good people. We never were knowingly involved in any type of bullying or racist treatment, like she is accusing Excalibur.
I wish to defend the children that trained with her and supported her when she attacks them with these allegations. Is Gabrielle a credible person just because she is an Olympic Champion? She is not giving any names or dates, leading us to believe that the accusation is fake. This wouldn’t be the first time that the media has made up a story. Thousands of gymnasts and families have supported our good conduct and our professionalism during the last 30 years.”
Also, Kim Hedeland, a white mother of one of Gabby’s former teammate wrote on the gym’s Facebook page, that her daughter and Gabby were best friends and also posted a picture of the two girls.
“I don’t claim to know everything that happened in the situation with the gym and and its gymnast who is now an Olympic athlete, but I do know that my daughter loved her like a sister for 7 years. My daughter says that she was one of her best friends at the gym and was very sad when she left.”
Follow Chris Witherspoon on Twitter at @WitherspoonC