The 'life lessons' Gabby Douglas has learned from the 2016 Olympics

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RIO DE JANEIRO – Gabby Douglas hasn’t been as prominent in the arena during these Olympics as she was in the 2012 Games, but she has certainly been a topic of conversation again. On Friday morning, a day after cheering for teammates Simone Biles and Aly Raisman in the all-around competition she won in London, Douglas reflected a bit on what this experience has been like for her.

“There’s definitely been some life lessons,” she said. “Things I’ve learned a lot. But I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Four years ago, Douglas was criticized on social media for her hair. This time, she was scrutinized for not putting her hand over her heart during the national anthem after winning team gold. She was even accused of slouching, although there were photos of her smiling during the ceremony. She later apologized on Twitter.

[Related: How Simone Biles’ greatness came to be]

The criticism seems excessive, yet it has sunk in. When asked about the “life lessons” she’s absorbed, she said, “Just to keep fighting. Be slow to speak. Just to really shine bright in everything you do.”

Douglas seemed to be working to keep to the “slow-to-speak” motto, as several of her answers came after pauses in which she smiled and thought to herself.

“Just to not react to anything so fast,” she explained. “Pay attention and listen to something before you answer.”

Gabby Douglas said the 2016 Olympics have been a learning experience for her. (Getty)
Gabby Douglas said the 2016 Olympics have been a learning experience for her. (Getty)

She said that applies to both media and social media, which she still likes despite the criticism because it helps her reach out to younger fans.

“You really do have to be careful,” she said. “Even though you have to be you, have to be concerned with everyone else, because people are watching, looking up to you. You’re in the public eye.”

Douglas rooted for Biles and Raisman on Thursday, and said she helped out beforehand with “anything they needed, like water or any tips. Just encouraging them.” She said she had “butterflies watching,” and spent time praying for them as well.

She said her goal for the rest of the Games was to make the podium for her uneven bars routine. After that, she has no plans other than to get a new dog – a husky.

Asked about the possibility of coaching, she allowed a laugh.

“I never really wanted to,” she said. “I never had an interest. But we’ll see.”

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