With the exception of certain members of the U.S. Swimming team, no gold medalist in the 2016 games got quite as much backlash as Gabby Douglas.
First she wasn’t clapping hard enough for her teammates. Then she wasn’t bubbly enough. Then she didn’t put her hand over her heart during the medal ceremony. The backlash was nonstop.
Few people seemed to remember that, despite her veteran Olympic status, Douglas is just 20 years old and living in a world where every smile – or lack thereof – can spark intense social media hate.
So after all the social media backlash, it would be unsurprising if Douglas were bitter or unhappy about her experience. But Douglas insists that she still had a “fantastic” time in Rio. “I had fun,” she tells PEOPLE. “Maybe people weren’t being fair on social media, but that’s social media for you.”
“I just found things to be positive about,” she says. “And there’s a lot to be happy about. We won the gold medal as a team, and it was just such an amazing experience. I came to the Olympics and won a gold medal! That’s still really awesome. I can only do what I can do, and if people want to say their stuff on social media, I can’t stop them.”
Soon, however, the backlash had its own backlash, and people began tweeting the hashtag #LOVE4GABBYUSA. “That was just awesome,” she says. “It felt really good to have people support me. It was a good reminder that where there is hate, love is more.”
A relaxed Douglas talked with PEOPLE inside the P&> Family Home, the lounge that supported athletes and their families throughout the game. (In true post-Olympic fashion, she was eating a plate of fries.)
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“I’m really looking forward to going home,” she says. “Just to have some family time. I can’t wait to relax and play with my two dogs.” (She has a corgi and a black lab/Rottweiler mix.)
“And then the Final Five will go out on tour,” she adds. “That will be a lot of fun. It will be fun to hang out with no pressure on us!”
And what’s next for Douglas? “I have a lot of opportunities,” she says. (For one: she’s the new spokesperson for Venus razors, which she makes sure to say “move like no other.”)
“It was a different experience than the last Olympics, but I’m happy with it,” she says. “I can’t wait to see what’s next.”