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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.

Seventh-grader Tamara Sheley traveled 200 miles with her mother and grandmother from their home in Hendersonville, North Carolina to hear Douglas’ story of triumph.

“She worked really hard to get to the Olympics, then she won the gold medal and now she’s inspiring kids all around the world,” Sheley said.

Douglas’ own mother, Natalie Hawkins, joined her daughter at the West End event, recalling how Douglas herself had to push through moments of uncertainty. “Before the all-around competitions she asked me, ‘Mom, do you think I can do this?’ And I said, ‘I absolutely do,’ ” Hawkins recalled. “There was no doubt in my mind that she had the potential and she had everything that she needed to do it.”

But it wasn’t just potential that landed Douglas a spot on the 2012 U.S Olympic team, observers note. Many of her fans are inspired by her sacrifice and work ethic, which her mother believes will serve her well as she prepares for 2016.

Seven-year-old Gwinnett Gymnastics Center student Anasa Wiggins says she also “wants to go to the Olympics, as Gabby did. I wanted to meet her.” And when asked what she would say to the Olympic star, she replied: “I know how to do a back handspring all by myself!”