As we conclude 17 days of Olympic games in London, England, I am reminded, yet again, how one moment in time can change your life for every moment thereafter. Who in all the world doesn’t know the exciting story of Gabrielle Christina Victoria “Gabby” Douglas, the 16-year old gymnast who made history as the first American woman to win gold medals in the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics? The first modern Olympic games were in Athens in 1896. Your jaw should drop in three, two, one seconds. If Gabby does nothing else, well–ever, she has immortalized herself. She made America proud and she made the world smile with her energy and enthusiasm. Very few 14 year olds would leave their families to live with strangers in Iowa in order to train with a legendary coach as Gabby did. And in a single day, every sacrifice bore fruit. So remarkable.
I have a confession to make though. Like many Americans, the only famous Gabby I knew before these Olympics was former Congresswoman Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords of Arizona. On January 8, 2011 she was shot in the head during an assassination attempt. A year later, she retired from public service and continued to focus on her recovery from the near-fatal attack. Earlier this year the Navy announced the next combat ship will be named the USS Gabrielle Giffords in her honor. The Navy broke with a long tradition in naming the ship after a woman who did not serve in the military because of her support of the military.
Some may look at them and see nothing in common but their names. I see more. Both have a wonderful, supportive network of immediate and extended family. Both served our country admirably. And both have faced fierce competition whether it was a political race or the Pan American Gymnastic Championships. I don’t think it would be going out on a limb to speculate that both considered giving up when the hardships seemed too great to endure. Finally, both have won praise from their colleagues and their opponents. That’s a medal worthy feat by itself. We would be a nation not worthy to allow either of these trailblazers to ever feel like giving up again. Go Gabby Go!!