Did one of America's most beloved new Olympians tell a whopper to Oprah?
Gabby Douglas became an overnight celebrity when she won gold at the 2012 Olympics. Recently, she sat down with Oprah to discuss her life on Oprah's Next Chapter, which aired Sunday on Oprah's OWN Network. During the conversation, she talked about how tough it was to be a gymnast.
According to Douglas, another gymnast called her a "slave" during training at Excalibur Gymnastics in Virginia Beach, Va.
"I felt being bullied and isolated from the group," Douglas told Oprah. "Is it because I’m black? Like, those thoughts would go through my mind."
Not so fast, says people at the gym, including ownership and other gymnasts, according to the Huffington Post.
"Gabby's remarks were hurtful and without merit," Excalibur Gymnastics CEO Gustavo Maure said in a statement. "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."
Other gymnasts went so far as to say Douglas wasn't a victim, but rather was treated better than the other people there.
"This is absolutely ridiculous," said Randy Stageburg, a former Senior International Elite and National Team member. "Gabby was never a victim, in fact many would say she was one of the favorites. I am not saying that she never felt bullied because when you are in a sport with a bunch of girls it is bond to happen. However, anything that she may have felt was never about race and I can assure you everyone at some point has felt bullied. I never once heard her complain about girls being mean, funny how it is just now coming up."
Kristina Coccia, a former Senior International Elite, backed up Stageburg's comments, saying: "I know numerous gymnasts who experienced nothing but fantastic memories from Excalibur. Pay back the money you owe, stop playing the victim and respect the coaches who got you to the Elite level. Because the Excalibur family is one that I personally remember during my career. This entire story makes me sick sometimes."
What do you make of this? Does it matter? In my opinion, not really. But her story was impressive enough, without having to (allegedly) embellish it.