Gabby Douglas conceded Sunday she hadn't performed as well during the 2016 Olympics as she had hoped, especially considering her gold-winning turn at the 2012 Games. But just as confusing and "hurtful" to the 20-year-old gymnast, per the Washington Post, was criticism about everything from the look on her face as she watched teammates compete to how she hadn't placed her hand over her heart while the national anthem played during a medal ceremony Tuesday—leading her to stay away from online "negativity" while in Rio, an emotional Douglas said after a disappointing uneven-bars routine over the weekend. "When they talk about my hair or me not putting my hand up on my heart or me being very salty in the stands, they're really criticizing me, and it doesn't really feel good," she said.
The remark about her hair referred to backlash she faced in 2012, when many chose to focus on her appearance rather than her multi-gold-medal performance. Her mom, Natalie Hawkins, tells Reuters that Douglas is "heartbroken" about recent accusations, including that she's "unpatriotic" (Douglas already apologized for the national anthem kerfuffle on Twitter). "I don't think respecting your country or your flag boils down to whether you put your hand over your heart or not," Hawkins says, pointing out her family's military history. "It's in your actions towards your country." A Los Angeles Times editorial also supports Douglas, saying she has nothing to apologize for on the patriotism front and noting, "Our Constitution allows us to express patriotism, or not, as we see fit. That's something worth being patriotic about." (Douglas said she was subjected to racist taunts during early training days.)