Gabby Douglas, who was the breakout star of the US Women's Gymnastics team at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, seems to be having a much different experience at this year's games. Once America's sweetheart, the fans who once catapulted Douglas to fame have now turned on her, using social media to criticize everything from her hair, to her attitude, to her patriotism.
Douglas received a veritable tidal wave of backlash after she was the sole member of her team not to put her hand on her heart during the National Anthem at the medal ceremony. Douglas has since apologized for the "faux pas," saying that she was honored to represent the US in the games and meant absolutely no disrespect.
She was also critiqued after people said that she did not clap hard enough for Simone Biles after she took home the gold. Gabby did clap and smile as Simone won, but did not stand to cheer like her fellow teammates.
According to Reuters, Gabby's mother Natalie Hawkins said her daughter is being outright bullied. She stated in an interview:
She's had to deal with people criticizing her hair, or people accusing her of bleaching her skin. They said she had breast enhancements, they said she wasn't smiling enough, she's unpatriotic. Then it went to not supporting your team mates. Now you're "Crabby Gabby." You name it, she got trampled. What did she ever do to anyone?
In Sunday night's uneven bars, a routine Douglas would usually excel at, she finished seventh out of eighth, which concluded Douglas' only individual event for the games and was very possibly the last event of her career as an Olympic athlete. Afterwards, she walked down a hallway, faced a wall, and cried.
With tears in her eyes, Douglas said in a post-event interview, "I tried to stay off the internet because there's just so much negativity. Either it was about my hair or my hand not over my heart [on the medal podium] or I look depressed. It was hurtful. It was hurtful. It was. It's been kind of a lot to deal with."
She then went on to say, trying not to cry, "When I heard some of the comments, I was finally like 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, that's far from me and far from my personality at all. I've been through a lot. A lot. Sometimes I sit back and say, 'Wait. What did I do to disrespect people? What have I done to disrespect the USA? I don't get that part. I'm sorry."
Gabby was only 16 when she was thrust into the spotlight, earning the gold medal for the women's all around. Now, at age 20, she went from the star to a supporting role, letting teammate Simone Biles take the lead.
The 2016 Olympics will probably mark the end of Douglas's career, and she's definitely getting a different send-off than the one she deserved.