An athlete competing for Team USA in Rio has been the focus of a barrage of criticism on social media. USA Today reports that Gabby Douglas, part of a U.S. women’s gymnastics team that has dominated the competition in Rio, has been hearing it from online users on a number of fronts.
While her teammates Simone Biles and Aly Raisman have stood out, Douglas — the gold medal winner in the all-around competition four years ago in London — has struggled. Meanwhile, the haters have found a lot to pick on.
“They said she was unpatriotic on Wednesday, when Douglas was the only member of the Final Five who didn’t place her hand on her heart during the national anthem after they won gold,” USA Today reports. “They said she was bitter on Thursday, when Simone Biles won the individual all-around, Aly Raisman won silver and Douglas — who was clapping — didn’t stand and cheer like her teammates Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian.”
And it didn’t end there. “They again made fun of her hair as they did in 2012 — the type of thing that comes with racial implications and stings so much more when you’re a minority in a mostly white sport,” the report notes. “They made fun of her smile (or perceived lack thereof). And despite all those people telling her to stay off her phone, it’s quite clear she heard it all.”
Douglas placed third overall in qualifying for the finals — behind teammates Biles and Raisman — but was prevented from advancing because each team is limited to two finalists. Then on Sunday she placed seventh in the uneven bars.
“For nearly 10 minutes after the likely final event of her career, the 20-year-old American, who had such a thrill ride four years ago in London, spoke with reporters about the emotional roller coaster here,” USA Today reports.
Douglas addressed a number of the complaints, saying: “I apologize if what may have … seemed to be me really mad in the stands (on Thursday). I wasn’t.” Turning to the flag issue, she explained: “I was supporting Aly [who had just lost out on the gold], and I always will support them and respect them and everything that they do. So I never want anyone to take it as I was jealous, or I wanted attention. Never.
“I support them, and I’m sorry that I wasn’t showing it, and I should have. But for me, it’s just like — it’s been a lot. And I’ve been through a lot. But I still love them. I still love the people who love me, still love them who hate me, and I’m just going to stand on that.”