Olympic Gymnast Gabby Douglas Reveals Her Sweet Support Crew – Led by Mom

"Don't focus on the negative energy, instead focus on the positive people supporting you and lifting you up," the gymnast star says

Photo: Jim Spellman/WireImage

Gabby Douglas is back at the Olympic Games to defend her individual all-around and team gold medals, but she’s not doing it completely alone.

The 20-year-old gymnastics superstar relies on her family for support, guidance and encouragement.

“When I fall, it’s my family that picks me up,” Douglas tells PEOPLE.

Natalie Hawkins, Douglas’ mom and manager, raised four children as a single mother and made the tough decision to let her daughter move away from the family at age 14 to train with Chinese gymnastics coach Liang Chow.

Although Hawkins was hesitant, Douglas’ three protective older siblings – Arielle Hawkins, Joy and Jonathan Douglas – knew they had to let her go.


“We had to be like, Mom, do this, please, please, please, and it was extra hard because she’s a mama bear and she’s so protective. So we made a pros-and-cons list. Making the Olympics was a pro. Missing her was a huge, huge con,” Arielle told The New York Times in 2012.

Douglas moved from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to West Des Moines, Iowa, and lived with a family she had never met.

Related Video: Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas Prepare for Trials Ahead of Rio

In the next two years, Gabby saw her mother only four times.

The sacrifices made by the entire family seemed to pay off when Douglas was the talk of the 2012 Olympics in London. The “Flying Squirrel” took home gold as part of Team U.S.A.’s “Fierce Five” and was the champion of the individual all-around competition.

As she prepares for this year’s Games, Douglas’ mother continues to be one of her closest confidants and biggest cheerleaders.

“My mom definitely encourages me throughout my whole journey, and she’s always been there,” Douglas explains. “She just tells me to go out there and keep fighting and just be really bold and courageous.”

Even during the bad times, Hawkins is there to provide support, even if that means simply keeping her mouth shut.

“I feel like she tries not to say as much,” Douglas says with a laugh. “Even in the rough times, she still encourages me and looks at the positive side.”


Douglas’ and her family are even starring in the docu-series Douglas Family Gold on Oxygen, which followed the support crew as Douglas trains for the Olympic trials. Spoiler – Douglas made the squad along with Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian.

For more of PEOPLE’s Olympic coverage, pick up our collector’s edition, The Best of the Games, on sale now.

Though Douglas didn’t have a great meet at trials, it was her prowess on the uneven bars that earned her a ticket to Rio.

As the Olympics approach, Douglas says she remembers a piece of advice given to her: “Always keep fighting” and “don’t let [others] decide your future.”

That’s also the wisdom Douglas shares when fans ask for her tips.

She says, “I’ve been in that boat where people have definitely doubted me or told me that I couldn’t do it, so I tell them you know what? Don’t focus on the negative energy, instead focus on the positive people supporting you and lifting you up.”

To learn more about all Olympic hopefuls, visit teamusa.0000org. The Rio Olympics begin Aug. 5 on NBC.

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