Congratulations to MTI Client Ella Douglas on a Silver Medal International Finish

For Ella Douglas, winning silver on beam was not predictable or to be expected, especially not at Gymnix, Canada’s premier international gymnastics competition.  Over the last 2 years Ella has undergone two different surgeries: one on her shoulder about two years ago and another on her foot/ankle last summer.She had only been back to full-time training about one month ago, and she cannot remember the last time she trained without intense pain.

There have been times when Ella has wanted to quit, when she questioned her Olympic dream – if it was even still possible – and wondered whether it would simply make more sense for her to take her NCAA scholarship now instead of deferring it until after the Olympics.  However, it’s Ella’s unrelenting determination, drive, and perseverance that has kept her going despite the pain, the set-backs, and the uncertainty.  

And her persistence paid off this past weekend.

I first found out via a Facebook post on her mom’s wall, where she wrote: “Silver medal on beam! Congrats Gabby!!”  I could hardly believe it.  Ella and I had spoken a few days before her competition (as we have almost every week for the past 3 years or so) and the focus was on getting through all her events cleanly.  The silver medal was not to be predicted (especially after she fell on beam in the qualifier, and only got into event finals by a judge’s choice).
In Ella’s words, “It’s all about being in the moment, being fully focused on what you’re doing at that time and then move on when it’s done to the next thing.”
I took the opportunity today to interview young and inspiring Ella Douglas on her victory this weekend: the victory over her injury as much as her podium finish.  
Kara:  First of all, I’m so proud of you for everything you accomplished and overcame to get the silver medal.  I almost fell off my seat when I heard about it!  Today I want you to share your story with other athletes, so that they too can be inspired to overcome the odds and push past whatever is stopping them.
So tell me about the weekend Ella.
Ella:  This weekend I had this thought “Why is this any different than training? Actually it’s easier than training because I only have one event then I’m done!”  I was very rational.  On the beam I thought, “Why be nervous, just go straight and I won’t fall off the beam”.
 I was very proactive in the competition environment – usually I do a bunch of stuff beforehand and then I just go compete on competition day. This time, in between events I went to the athletes corral and put my legs up, which both drained the lactic acid and relaxed my whole body.  I also proactively visualized my routines my with headphones on.  All of this allowed me to feel very in control of how I was thinking, of my body, and of my emotions.
Kara: So how’d you finish?
Ella: I came 7th all-around, 4th on Floor, and 2nd on Beam.  
Kara:  Wow that’s amazing, especially since I’ve been speaking with you and we’ve been working on your mind frame.  We really didn’t think this was going to happen.  Your goal was simply to get through all your events.  How long have you been back training after your last surgery?
Ella:  The last surgery was in August of last year and I’ve only really been fully training for 1 month since surgery
Kara:  What allowed you to be so successful on the weekend?
Ella: Well, I had a rest day in between finals.  I spent the whole day not thinking about anything – so that I didn’t over think.  I did yoga, I watched my teammate compete, I bought some new gym suits, but I didn’t think of anything to do with gymnastics.  I was just really present and didn’t let my mind over analyze or worry about my injuries.
Kara: So tell me about the finals.
Ella: The finals were supposed to be in Olympic Order: so beam then floor.  The floor hurts more, so I knew I could get beam over with and perform my best then give everything on floor because I could rest after.  Only they switched it and they did floor first then beam.  It was so stressful.  I was last to go on floor then second to go on beam, so I did my floor routine, presented to the judges, and had to run across the large venue to the beam to line up in front of the judges.  When I got there I was wheezing and out of breath.  
I had about 30seconds, so my coaches were running to get me water then it was my turn to warm-up on beam.  I figured that my skills were all muscle memory at this point, and that I just needed to catch my breath, so I didn’t practice any of my skills in warm-up.  I chugged water, caught my breath, then it was my turn to compete.
I told myself, “Just go straight, do what you know how to do and it’ll be fine”.  Then I did that.  I hit my beam routine and came 2nd by only 0.075!
Kara:  Amazing! What are you going to take away from this competition for future competitions?
Ella:  First of all, being more present and proactive in the competition: I tend to forget what I needs and only focus on the competition versus my other needs.  
Here’s what I’ll do in between events to be more proactive in future competitions:
  • Get physio
  • Lie down with my legs up
  • Close my eyes and visualize
  • And do more ‘rational thinking’ – continuing to come back to the present moment, to right now, vs. focusing on the ‘What ifs?’
Kara: How are you going remind yourself of this?
Ella:  I’m going to use Gymnix as past positive experience to remind me.  I’m going to say to myself, “Do what you did at Gymnix”.
Kara:  Your amazing result is really a testament to your work ethic, to your maturity, and to what’s possible when you never give up. 
Is there anything want to say to other young athletes or gymnasts?
Ella: If anything goes wrong or if you have an unexpected situation, injury, or something else giving trouble, really do not give up.  This might sound a little cliché or hard to hear sometimes, it’s about just taking everything one day at a time.  
I went through a long period of time where I had to take things hour-by-hour, or else it was all too overwhelming, stressful, and hard to deal with.  It’s about staying present and taking tiny steps.  Even when I was going to training, I didn’t even think of my events: I’d go to gym and only think about warm-up. Then, when warm-up was over and I moved to bars, I’d only think about bars.  Then when I was on floor, my mind was 100% on floor.  This present-mindedness made a huge difference.  It also trains the brain how to compete well and not let external factors bother you.
It’s all about being in the moment, being fully focused on what you’re doing at that time and then move on when it’s done to the next thing.
We couldn’t be prouder of Ella an what she’s achieved.  Thank you Ella for sharing your wisdom and perseverance with us all.  You are living proof of the power of Mental Toughness! We’ll all be cheering you on as you continue on your path to qualifying for the Pan Am Games.

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