Gabby Douglas, elite athletes participate in panel for Significant Speaker Event

May 02, 2017

Audrey Jensen

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     Young girls lined up to tell their idol, three-time Olympic gold medalist and U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team member Gabby Douglas, how much they loved her as she sat on stage in the Gallogly Events Center on a Tuesday evening.

Allysa Seely; a Triathlete, Gabby Douglas; Olympic Gold Medalist, Lauren Ferrara; Fox 21 Anchor and moderator; and Rachael Flatt, a figure skater, talk at the panel. Photo by Gabby Moyer: The Scribe

     On April 25, the room filled with UCCS students, faculty and community members to hear Douglas, Paralympic athlete Allysa Seely and former Olympic figure skater Rachael Flatt speak on their athletic careers at the seventh annual Significant Speaker Event.

     Moderated by Fox 21 anchor Lauren Ferrara, each athlete took turns answering questions about their training, personal lives and the sports they competed in the Olympics.

     Brandon Applehans, graduate student, opened the event with a speech, thanking Office of Student Activities and Residence Life and Housing for putting together the athlete panel.

     Ferrara took the stage as she named off each athlete to walk on the stage and take their seats.

     One question that received a large applause from the audience was from one young girl who asked the panel how they think they have made an impact on the world.

     “I remember me and my mom always talked about that you can inspire a generation, you can inspire a nation. We didn’t really know what that meant, and when that did happen, ‘is this really it?’” said Douglas.

     Seely said this was one of the deepest questions she’s been asked.

     “I’m not sure how I’ve impacted the world and I hope that over the next 20 to 30 years I’ll be able to see that unfold,” she said.

     Flatt said she hopes she’s inspired others in the skating community.

     “I hope that I’ve inspired some kids who are extremely passionate about sports to also continue to pursue their education because I think that’s so important,” said Flatt.

     “That means going on a path that’s right for you while continuing to learn and grow,” said Flatt.

     Ferrara’s questions started by asking each athlete what their pre-competition routine is. Each answer ranged from having a few minutes of silence and watching The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to eating a good breakfast and dancing backstage.

     As someone who competes in many team events, Ferrara asked Douglas what her team philosophy is.

     “It’s weird, because gymnastics is not only a team sport, but is also individual. But it’s a healthy balance because we all wants what’s best for each other and we all push each other to that next level of competition,” said Douglas.

     Her team philosophy is that a team should be one, and good, that they should have love and support for one another and never be caddy.

     “You want to be a good team player, and no one wants to be a loser,” said Douglas.

     “No matter what, if you mess up, we’re not going to be mad. Pick yourself back up and finish. We never get mad if someone fell.”

     Ferrara asked Flatt and Seely, “What were some of things you gave up to be an Olympic athlete?”

     Growing up in Colorado Springs, Flatt admitted that she lived a mostly normal life while competing.

     “I led a pretty normal life for an Olympic athlete, I went to school dances, I went to prom before an event. I tried to make my experience as normal as possible. My parents had to give up a lot, I had to give up a lot of my normal adolescent time,” she said.

     Seely was diagnosed with three rare conditions, according to Ferrara, who asked her to explain how she overcame training after being diagnosed.

     Seely was diagnosed with Chiari II malformation, basilar invagination and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

     “Never once did I doubt that I was going to compete again. I never really had the expectation of competing in the level I do now,” said Seely.

     “The one thing that really kept me going was a desire to be better than the day before. As I got better and better, and I learned how to swim and bike and run again, my first dream was to cross the finish line, after that it was to start competing nationally.”

     She wanted to compete internationally and then compete in the Olympics, which she made further goals for after she qualified to compete.