In celebration of Women’s Herstory Month, Trinity College recently welcomed three-time Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas to speak to the community.

Gabby Douglas
Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas speaks at Trinity College. Photos by Joel Callaway.

During a Q&A-style conversation in the Washington Room on March 28 called “Women’s Leadership in Motion: An Evening with Olympic Athlete Gabby Douglas,” moderated by Trinity students Dansowaa Adu ’24 and Mary Hazelton ’24, Douglas shared her personal journey as an Olympic athlete, her motivations for pursuing a career in gymnastics, and some advice with the audience.

At the 2012 London Olympic Games, Douglas made history as the first Black woman to win the Olympic individual all-around title. She also became the first U.S. gymnast to win gold in both the individual and team all-around competitions, marking the beginning of her journey to three career Olympic gold medals.

“I love to challenge myself. I love pushing the limits and pushing past boundaries,” said Douglas, whose career has motivated and paved the way for countless others. “I’m so grateful that gymnastics has given me this platform where I can inspire other women—not even just women, but everyone—to do their own thing. Never limit yourself due to other people’s limits or expectations.”

Gabby Douglas
Gabby Douglas (center) talks with Dansowaa Adu ’24 (left) and Mary Hazelton ’24.

Douglas and her four teammates at the 2012 Olympics were known as the “Fierce Five,” and they quickly became fan favorites. Together, the group won the second team gold medal in women’s gymnastics for the United States. “I learned that teamwork really does make the dream work,” said Douglas. “I really could not have been here without my team, and everyone who has given so much support to me and my journey.”

Beyond her successful gymnastics career, Douglas has also ventured into writing and entrepreneurship. Her autobiography, Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith, reached the top five on the New York Times Young Adult Best Sellers list, and she has also made appearances in numerous movies and television shows.

In addition to speaking about her award-winning athletic career, Douglas also shared her struggles and how she has been able to overcome them. “I like to take a step back and think about my perspective, and look at everything I’ve gained instead of everything I’ve lost,” said Douglas, when asked about how she stays motivated during challenging times. “Mental blocks are very, very hard, but I believe that they’re very normal. If you’re really struggling with something, take a step back, and take the necessary steps to get to your end goal. You don’t have to reach your end goal right away.”

Student-athlete Allie Newman ’26, a member of the Trinity women’s rowing team, was inspired by Douglas’ advice regarding motivation. “I think that it is really applicable to rowing, and how me and a lot of my teammates feel sometimes,” said Newman. “During a hard training week or during a hard practice, it’s easy to lose focus about why you are doing this, but it helps to remind yourself that this will only make you tougher and stronger for the future.”

Gabby Douglas
Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney with Gabby Douglas.

During her introduction to the evening’s event, Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney said, “Women have never shied away from a good challenge. Our speaker tonight exemplifies this sentiment perfectly. Her perseverance and courage to speak her truth inspire us all.”

Laura Lockwood, the director of Trinity’s Women & Gender Resource Action Center (WGRAC), said that it was a gift to host Douglas on campus. “She is a remarkable leader of extraordinary grace, wisdom, and talent,” Lockwood said. “Her open and honest interactions with young girls and woman audience members was especially empowering. It was very emotional to witness the excitement in the room.”

Pamela N. Whitley, assistant vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion and compliance, added, “Gabby was very warm and personable to everyone she met. She thanked us profusely for inviting her to campus. To witness the energy of the audience and her thoughtful responses to them was remarkable. It’s definitely the event that’s keeping me in a space of joy!”

This past February, Douglas announced that she plans to return to competitive gymnastics after a six-year hiatus. She is currently training to participate in the 2024 Olympic Games, which will be held this summer in Paris. “I never wanted to walk away from something I loved,” said Douglas. “That’s why I’m back; I want to experience that joy again. I never wanted to waste the talent I was given. I never wanted to have regret, so I always make sure I give it my all.”