Gabby Douglas wows West End

‘Don’t be afraid to be great,’ Olympics star tells area fans

By Joann Fisher Contributing Writer | 3/29/2013, noon
More than 800 cheering fans from as far away as North Carolina and Alabama converged on the West End recently ...
Olympics star Gabrielle "Gabby" Douglas meets with fans and readers at her book signing.

ATLANTA – More than 800 cheering fans from as far away as North Carolina and Alabama converged on the West End recently to get an close-up look at two-time Olympics gold medal sensation Gabby Douglas, who was in town to sign copies of her new book, “Grace, Gold and Glory: My Leap of Faith.”

Speaking at the Shrine of The Black Madonna Cultural Center and Bookstore, Douglas told mobs of local youngsters to listen to their mentors, follow their dreams and never let anyone deter them from their passions.

“Listen to your coaches. Go 100 percent at what you do. Keep fighting for your dreams,” she told mobs of adoring fans. “Don’t be afraid to be great.”

Douglas, whose iconic rise began when she became the first black gymnast to win an individual all-around gold medal and team gold medal during the 2012 Olympics, answered questions, signed books, and smiled for hundreds of photos to the pleasure of the delighted crowd.

“Just seeing all of these kids is amazing. They are so shy,” said Douglas, 17, who is on a cross-country tour promoting her new book. “Just being here is such a warm feeling.”

Shrine Store Manager Ewa OmoOba considers the event “a tremendous bonding experience” and says the urban community has been abuzz since confirming Douglas’ visit.

“We love Gabby. She’s our child; she’s our sister; she’s our Goddaughter,” she said. “We all feel like Gabby belongs to us and we’re grateful for her tenacity, her determination to be the superstar athlete that she is and we’re very proud of her.”

Am earlier VIP event provided a chance for some of Douglas’ fans to pose for photos with the gymnast. Twelve-year-old Dawn Williams, a member of the Georgia Non-Profit Teen Angels Society, said Douglas’ quest for glory inspires her to reach for her dream, as well.

“I’m a fan of Gabby because she’s an inspiration to me,” shares the Drew Charter School 7th grader. “She went through a lot. I like the fact that she made a lot of sacrifices to move with a host family to achieve her dream. If she could do it, I can do it, too.”

State Rep. Mable Thomas attended the event to present the champion with a proclamation and shared her thoughts on Gabby’s visit to Atlanta’s West End.

“I think it’s important because [these girls] will be our next generation, our future leaders and it’s just wonderful that they can be inspired by someone who is young, gifted and black,” Thomas said.

Fourth grader and gymnast Deiah Marie Moody, who saw Gabby at the 2012 Olympic trials in California, considers Gabby a role model and said she was “excited to see her” up close and personal. The nine-year-old’s mother, Natasha Moody, says Douglas is an inspiration to her daughter.

“Sometimes when she doesn’t feel like doing gymnastics I say, ‘I’m sure Gabby goes through ups and downs but you have to push through it,’ ” Moody said. “Her motivation has been Gabby Douglas since the Olympics.”