Gymnast Gabby Douglas’ historic gold medals — she’s the first woman of color in Olympic history to be the individual all-around champion and the first American to win both individual and team all-around competitions at the same Olympics — were made possible in part by a very strong network of maternal support.
Two years ago, Douglas asked her mother’s permission to go from her native Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Des Moines, Iowa, to train with famed coach Liang Chow.
Her mother, Natalie Hawkins, reluctantly agreed, entrusting her daughter to the care of Missy Parton, who heads her own family in Des Moines. Parton has four daughters younger than Gabby, and they welcomed the gymnast into their home.
In an interview with ABC News, Hawkins said it’s hard for her to imagine Gabby doing so well without Missy’s additional care. “It really is like ‘Mom1’ and ‘Mom2,’” she said.
"Letting go of Gabrielle was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life,” Hawkins told Procter & Gamble’s Thank You, Mom campaign, but “I learned from this that family isn’t just confined to blood relations.”
Above, Hawkins (bottom center) and Parton (bottom left) cheer on Gabby at the London 2012 Olympics.