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Officials at the gym where Gabby Douglas trained before her move to Iowa (and subsequent trip to the Olympics) are calling her a liar.

Recently, the first African American to win the All-Around gold medal appeared on Oprah’s Next Chapter. In that interview, she said she was bullied at the Virginia Beach gym by other gymnasts. Stopping short of calling the other young gymnasts racists, Gabby said:

“One of my teammates was like, ‘Can you scrape the bar? And they were like, ‘Why doesn’t Gabby do it, she’s our slave?’”

“I felt like I was bullied and isolated from the group, Gabby said, “and they treated me not how they would treat the other teammates.”

“I was just, you know, kind of getting racist jokes, kind of being isolated from the group. So it was definitely hard. I would come home at night and just cry my eyes out.”

Now, that gym is saying Gabby’s account of her experience is not true.

According to USWeekly.com

“The accusations that are being made against the gymnasts and coaches are just sickening,” Excalibur gym’s Randy Stageburg said in a statement to Gymnewstics.com. “Gabby was never a victim, in fact many would say she was one of the favorites. I never once heard her complain about girls being mean, funny how it is just now coming up.”

Excalibur Gymnastics CEO Gustavo Maure echoes Stageburg’s sentiments, calling Douglas’ remarks “hurtful and without merit.” In a statement to E! News, Maure went so far as to say Douglas made up the allegations.

“Is Gabrielle a credible person just because she is an Olympic Champion? She is not giving any names or dates, leading us to believe that the accusation is fake,” Maure seethed. “This wouldn’t be the first time that the media has made up a story. Thousands of gymnasts and families have supported our good conduct and our professionalism during the last 30 years.”

What makes “Gabrielle a credible person” is the fact that she trained at the gym. Whether she won an Olympic Gold Medal or not, to tell someone they didn’t experience discrimination is ridiculous. Of course Excalibur isn’t going to take those accusations lightly because they likely are hoping to cash in on the “Gabby Douglas got her start here” advertisement that writes itself. Gabby saying she wasn’t welcome as a young black girl may turn away other young black gymnasts hoping to follow in her footsteps.

The fact is, discrimination happens and prejudice starts extremely young. Just because the officials are claiming this is the first time they’re hearing about it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Also, just because others have not said they experienced discrimination doesn’t mean Gabrielle didn’t. Further, how do we know this is the first they’ve heard of it? Who has more reason to lie in this situation?

If you’ve been following Excalibur’s reaction to Gabby Douglas’s prior to and during the Olympics, then you know the gym has been harboring hard feelings against her for a while.

Back in March, The Virginian-Pilot published a story in which the coaches of Excalibur expressed obvious bitterness about Gabby’s success and the fact that she said she left their gym for “better coaching”. Insisting that they “made” Gabby, Deana Walker said in that interview:

“Everything Douglas brings to the mat today, she got it here. Every piece of development, every bit of flexibility. If she was trained wrong, she would not look like she looks right now.”

Deana Walker is the coach that Gabby left behind in her native Virginia, moving to West Des Moines two years ago, she said, in search of more advanced training from Liang Chow and a better shot at getting into the Games.

Sandy Stageberg, the mother of an Excalibur gymnast Randy Stageberg, who reached the ’08 Olympic Trial (because being a mother makes you an expert) said:

Insiders know what’s what. It’s sickening that most people will see only Chow smiling nearby whenever Douglas smiles back from a victory stand. I know Gabby’s good, but she wasn’t made by Chow. You don’t make an Olympian in a year and a half.”

In contrast, “insider” Elfi Schlegel, an NBC Sports gymnastics analyst said:

“Chow really has taken this athlete and done a lot of work with her, trust me. I know she came with a lot of skills – not to take credit from where she was before – but this man has produced what you’re seeing, the results today.”

Nobody is saying that the Excalibur coaches didn’t help Gabby get where she is today. Instead of acknowledging Chow helped as well, the Excalibur coaches took the lowest road possible by veering off and saying they helped Gabby financially because of her mother’s personal problems:

But what are coaches to do, they ask, when a star athlete’s mother is on long-term medical disability from a financial services company, her income is dramatically cut and she can’t pay for her daughter to compete, say, in Chicago or Philadelphia?

What do you do when those issues are compounded by domestic strife that has led the mother to divorce the same man twice?

I know what you don’t do, you don’t put her business on the street in a newspaper’s front page story.

While the gym was dragging Natalie Hawkins name through the mud, Gabby’s mother insisted they had reason for leaving beyond the coaching but didn’t elaborate:

“I wasn’t looking to move my child all the way to Iowa. They didn’t leave me a choice but to leave. I won’t tell you all about the dysfunction that was going on in the gym.”

Now that we know what that dysfunction is, the Excalibur staff is more upset than ever. Though they’re still getting their publicity by proximity, they are choosing to portray themselves in a negative and bitter light thus unwittingly lending credibility to Gabby’s story.

Why so hateful? Athletes switch coaches all of the time. It’s Gabby that has to make the necessary sacrifices and make the best decision with the information that she has. There are no Olympic medals for people who stay at certain gyms because of loyalty. Wisdom is proved correct by what happens after the decision is made and it looks like Gabby has wisdom far beyond her years.

USA Today reported:

Deana Walker, whose Excalibur gym has produced 11 national team members but no Olympians, remains convinced that Douglas would have gotten to London without having to leave Virginia Beach.

But Douglas reiterated Thursday that she doesn’t believe that’s the case.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “I’m not trying to put bad on them, but you know … I just want to thank them, too, because they took me so far.”

As far as the accusations of discrimination goes, young black people should not be silenced by people of the majority who want to pretend discrimination and racism isn’t happening. It is happening and hearing about this coach saying that Gabby’s claims are without merit only confirms that she made the right choice to leave Excalibur and never look back.

Follow Alissa on Twitter @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life

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