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Has Gabby Douglas gone from America’s sweetheart to America’s lightning rod?
The Olympic gold medalist is under fire after she said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that she was the victim of racism at the gym where she trained in Virginia Beach.
She told Winfrey about one incident in which a teammate at Excalibur Gymnastics told her to do something because she was their slave.
“I definitely felt isolated,” Douglas said in the interview. “I felt, ‘Why do I deserve this? Is it because I’m black?’ ”
Her former coach and others associated with Excalibur blasted the claim.
“Really, I was shocked and very hurt,” former coach Dena Walker told NewsChannel 3 in Hampton Roads.
Gustavo Moure, CEO of Excalibur, went even further, suggesting that Douglas was lying.
“I wish to defend the children that trained with her and supported her when she attacks them with these allegations,” he told E! News. “Is Gabrielle a credible person just because she is an Olympic champion? She is not giving any names or dates, leading us to believe that the accusation is fake.”
“Gabby’s remarks were hurtful and without merit,” he told GymNewstics.com. “We’ve had more African-Americans in elite and on the national team than any other gym in the country.”
Former teammates also blasted her.
“This is absolutely ridiculous,” Randy Stageburg, a former National Team member, told GymNewstics.com. “Gabby was never a victim, in fact many would say she was one of the favorites. I am not saying that she never felt bullied because when you are in a sport with a bunch of girls it is bound to happen. However, anything that she may have felt was never about race and I can assure you everyone at some point has felt bullied.
“I watched Dena open her home to Gabby, feeding her, taking her to gym, and allowing her to stay over her house whenever Gabby wanted to,” he said.