My earliest memory of the Olympics was the 1996 Atlanta Games. I was 5 years old. Kerri Strug had just limped off after doing her second vault (back when it looked like a pommel horse!) and the U.S. women had just won gold for the very first time. All I remember thinking at the time was Ouch, that looks like it hurts.
When I started watching Olympic gymnastics, American women were in the conversation but not in the same fold as, say, Russia or Romania. And then in 2004 Carly Patterson won the individual all-around, the first American woman to win the gold on foreign soil, and in an Olympics that wasn’t boycotted. I was 13 and thought that was pretty rad. Four years later, Nastia Liukin won in Beijing. I was entering my sophomore year of college then. I thought her win was awesome.
Today Gabby Douglas won gold too, the third straight American woman to win an event that was previously out of reach to former U.S. Olympians. She’s the fourth American woman overall, and the first African American to do so. This time, I think it’s absolutely amazing. Watching her right now, on this tape-delayed broadcast, I feel so hearty and proud (have I mentioned this is the first Olympics where I’m feeling really really old, considering a good chunk of the competitors are younger than me and the same age as my baby brother’s?!). She’s also the first American to win both team and individual golds in the same Olympics.