Gabby Douglas may have soared higher than any other female gymnasts as the 2012 London Olympics, but her journey wasn’t always filled with as many smiles. Thanks to merciless teasing by her teammates and feelings of isolation, Douglas almost quit the sport two years before her all-around title.

In a new interview with Oprah Winfrey on the host’s show Next Chapter, Douglas said the atmosphere at the Virginia Beach, Virginia gym where she initially trained was toxic and occasionally even racist. Some of the other girls reportedly even once referred to her as their slave.
"One of my teammates was like, 'Can you scrape the bar?' And they were like, 'Why doesn't Gabby do it, she's our slave?'"

In response to all the bullying, Douglas moved to Des Moines, Iowa to train alongside former Olympian Shawn Johnson. The new environment was warm and inviting, and the feelings of relaxation and positivity the change of scenery ushered in helped propel Douglas to the top of her sport. Thanks to her performance, she will be a star for the rest of her life and serve as an inspiration to future gymnasts.

Success is sometimes about more than talent. It’s about surrounding yourself with the right type of people to bring the best out of you. Clearly, Douglas needed a positive environment to maximize her potential. For her own sake and the millions of fans who rooted her on, I’m glad she eventually wound up in the right place.

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