TR: You mention that Martin Luther King Jr. is one of your favorite historical figures, and not just because of his race. Why?
GD: Don’t get me wrong; I love a lot of historical figures, but Martin Luther King Jr. was one of my favorites. I loved what he stood up for and believed. I’m living his dream, being the first African American to win the individual all-around gold in gymnastics. I was living with a white host family that opened their home and treated me as one of their own.
TR: What was it like to be congratulated by gymnast Dominique Dawes and the Obamas?
GD: It was an amazing feeling because Dominique Dawes was one of my role models and I love her, and I’m so glad I got to meet her and especially the president and the first lady. Just to be in their presence was spectacular.
TR: You told the New York Times before you won your medals that no one thought you would win because you were black and you were the underdog. Do you feel that your win has helped erase the perception that black gymnasts or other athletes are unlikely to excel in sports where there aren’t that many of us?
GD: I’m just so honored to become the first African American to win the all-around medal. A lot of people doubted me, but that was also my encouragement, not only to prove them wrong but also to prove myself right. I’m so happy to bring a new face to the sport of gymnastics.
Joshunda Sanders is an Austin, Texas-based writer. Follow her on Twitter.