U.S. Olympian Gabby Douglas' intense Christian faith - and its profound role in her quest for success

Posted August 11

For many athletes competing in Rio, reliance on personal faith and the quest for Olympic success go hand in hand. Gymnast Gabrielle "Gabby" Douglas is certainly among those who fit into that category.

The athlete, who was first made world-famous after winning gold medals during the 2012 London Olympics, is currently competing in Rio — and her faith journey is just one of the many stories that has gained attention in recent days.

It's a story that was already told in-depth during the 2012 Olympic season, but it's one that continues to gain traction — and with good reason.

After all, Douglas was just 16 years old when she captivated the world at the London Olympics — and won big.

"Gabrielle is the first woman of color of any nationality and the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to become the Individual All-Around Champion," her official bio reads. "She is also the first American gymnast to win gold in both the gymnastic individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympic games."

Now 20, Douglas is in Rio to try to once again walk away with some gold medals. With her quest set out before her, many outlets are pointing back to the importance that the gymnast has placed on her Christian faith, as she has credited her worldview with giving her the power to persevere through various challenges.

Watch Douglas' uneven bar performance at this year's Olympics.

"Faith plays a very big role in my life. I don’t know where I would be without it today," Douglas said in a 2012 interview with Religion News Service. "I’ve always been praying for everything. And my mom always exposed me and my siblings to being a Christian and the Bible."

She also said at the time that she relies upon scripture to help get through difficult moves and routines in both practice and competition.

But beyond relying on Bible verses, Douglas also said that she enjoys sharing her faith with others, according to Charisma News.

"I love sharing my story and I love sharing about my faith," she said in a past interview. "God has given me this amazing God-given talent, so I'm going to go out and glorify his name."

The public has also been drawn to Douglas due to the finer details of her personal story — one that has included some monumental struggles, including being diagnosed with a deadly blood disease and experiencing homelessness as a child.

While Douglas shared her story in her 2012 book, "Grace, Gold & Glory My Leap of Faith," she has also spoken openly about the trials and tribulations that she faced during her upbringing.

In an interview with Christianity Today, she admitted to wanting to quit her training just months before she was slated to head to London in 2012, saying that it was her family members and coach, among others, who inspired her to stay in the game and fight on.

She also shared her family's very personal struggle with homelessness and poverty.

"I was very young so I don't remember (the details), but my mom and my siblings said it could be cold at times; we ate off the floor, off napkins," Douglas said. "It was my motivation to accomplish my dreams. My family and I had to overcome a lot to get where we are today."

Unfortunately for Douglas, she won't have a chance to compete again to defend her individual all-around gold medal title at the 2012 Olympics after an American teammate barely beat her this past Sunday.

But Douglas told the Associated Press that she's not disappointed.

"I'm not disappointed at all. I have no regrets," she said, going on to say that she wasn't trying to prove her critics wrong who had taken aim at her selection for the 2016 team after she fell off of the balance beam two times during Olympic trials. "I just wanted to go out there and believe in my abilities and use the talent that I was given. I wasn't concerned with anything else."

It should be noted, too, that Douglas still has a very solid shot for a gold both with her team and while competing individually on the uneven bars. She told the AP on Sunday that she's "rejoicing so far" and that the Olympic experience in Rio, despite not being able to defend her title, has been "amazing."

"There's nothing to be ashamed about," Douglas said.

In many ways, faith and the Olympics mesh well together. We've already told you about the major role that religion plays at the games, with organizers putting together a massive interreligious center this year that is staffed with faith leaders who are actively helping athletes connect with a higher power.

And that's just one of the stories about faith and the Olympics of late.

From a Christian swimmer who overcame a head injury to an underdog wrestler who relied on God and beat the odds to make it to Rio — to the Muslim fencer who just became the first U.S. Olympian to wear a hijab during a competition — religion is on full display in Rio.

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