Olympic Flashback: Black Gymnast Speaks

photo from inthegym.wikia.com

Though the summer Olympics are past, it is hard to stop hearing about such a momentous occasion that only comes only once every four years just weeks later. Especially as the Olympics of 2012 left us with true historical moments, one in particular for the African-American community.

Even today, the bright smile of Gabby Douglas still shines on the cover of numerous magazines and her success as the first African-American to win the gold in the Olympics all around competition remains outstanding. As we know however, there was much controversy that surrounded the 16 year-old champion that seemed to unnecessarily cloud her achievements.

For another perspective on the story, InCOLOR Magazine got a chance to interview Alexis Russell, a former graduate and also very successful gymnast for the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities. Russell is 23, and another product of Minnesota. Though she now resides in Washington D.C. living a comfortable post-graduate life, she truly did leave her mark at the University through her athleticism. “The most fulfilling part of my journey as a gymnast was qualifying for the NCAA Championships as an individual qualifier my senior year at Minnesota.” says Russell. This achievement goes to show her impact during her years of being a Big 10 gymnast.

Alexis Russell

Russell shared how she felt about both Douglass’ hair, and also her familial issues that were blasted through the media. “Sadly black women are very critical on hair as that is something within our culture that we spend a lot of time and energy on, letting our hair define us.  So I was not surprised that the Black community was knit-picky on Gabby’s hair.  I was afraid of the backlash because I knew it was coming.  As for her family business, I thought that was a bit extreme and wrong.  Family issues should always be off limits.”

Even through the negativity that accompanied our young leader, Gabby Douglas is still a role-model for many. Considering the stigmas that often come with 16 year old girls in minority communities such as getting pregnant at a young age, not getting a decent education, or relying on welfare to get by etc…these stereotypes are washed away and the true potential within our communities is shared for the world to see when young pioneers from our circles rise up.

Russell also finds great pride in the accomplishments of Douglas, “Gabby has accomplished a dream that many of us Black gymnasts have always strived for.  A huge portion of USA’s team gold was attributed to her.  She was the only gymnast on the team that did all four events that day.  As for the All Around competition it was beautiful to see because she peaked at the perfect time and had the meet of her life.  She earned that gold fair and square and that will forever leave her as a role model and athletic hero in African American history forever.”

Written By: Tiffany Trawick

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