Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hey, Don't You Remember Being Sixteen?

It's been several weeks since the 2012 Summer Olympic Games (the third ones ever held in London, England) came to an end. I'm still raving about the performances of several teams and of four athletes:

(1) Both United States basketball teams- Mike Krzyzewski's men and Geno Auriemma's women- picking up gold again; (2) America's women's soccer team, which got revenge on Japan; (3) the nation's gold-winning and silver-winning women's beach volleyball teams; (4) the US setting a world record in the women's 4x100 relay; (5) American swimmers Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin; (6) South African runner Oscar Pistorius; (7) America's women's volleyball team; (8) the first US women's gymnastics team to get the team gold since 1996 (when the Summer Games were held in Atlanta, GA).

And then there's the biggest name on that 2012 US Olympic women's gymnastics squad...a sixteen-year-old Virginian named Gabrielle Douglas. 

All Douglas did was become just the third consecutive American to pick up Olympic gold in all-around competition in women's gymnastics (and the fourth American to do it)...and the first American female gymnast to claim a team medal and an individual all-around one in the same Olympiad.  

And coming into this year's Summer Olympics, Michigan's Jordyn Wieber was the name sports fans were supposed to rave about when it came to women's gymnastics.

Still, what a team Douglas, Wieber, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, and Co. turned out to be in London. I'm still celebrating.

What hurts so darn much, though, is just about right after Douglas made history in the all-around competition, some people got on complain about Douglas' hairdo.  

When I turned on my TV and found out how some people on the social network were dissing Gabby, I found myself asking: "WHY??"

I don't remember people going online to complain about 2004 all-around winner Carly Patterson's looks...or about those of the next all-around champion, Nastia Luikin.

And nobody here in America complained about the physical appearance of the first female US gymnast to snare the all-around gold medal, Mary Lou Retton, who got it done in 1984.

Matter of fact, many were probably wondering how soon Retton could go after the job Ronald Reagan had at that very moment.  

But here we are in 2012, and instead of celebrating the accomplishments of a teenager who's spent the last two years training in Shawn Johnson's stomping grounds (West Des Moines, IA)...we want to know what the hell is wrong with the hair of the Olympic movement's new all-around women's gymnastics champ.

And now, they want to dismiss Douglas' experiences training at one of the facilities in her birth city of Virginia Beach, Excalibur. At that training center, one (or several) of the other gymnasts treated her like a slave.

Listen, I take Gabby Douglas at her word. 

Here in America, we adults spend so much time minimizing anything said by our country's preteens and teenagers. We far too often turn a deaf ear when they're hurting inside. 

So before you start accusing Douglas of playing the so-called race card or start complaining of her physical appearance, stop and think about what it was like when YOU were sixteen years of age.

Was your sixteen all that sweet?  

I don't feel mine was...but that's a whole other story.

Meantime, Gabrielle Douglas' sixteenth year on Earth (she'll turn seventeen on 12-31-2012) has been some kind of sweet. Her two gold medals are the icing on the cake.

And I'm going to keep saying: "RIGHT ON! All the very best to you!" 

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