Douglas is the daughter of Timothy Douglas and Natalie Hawkins. She began training in gymnastics at age six when her older sister, Arielle, convinced their mother to enroll her in gymnastics classes. When she was eight years old, Douglas won an all-around gymnastics award for her level at the 2004 Virginia State Championships. When Douglas moved to Iowa to train under Liang Chow, Douglas and her sister had to convince their mother to let Douglas leave Virginia and live with a host family in West Des Moines.
Douglas is the first African-American and first woman of color in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champion, and the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics. She was also a member of the gold-winning U.S. team at the 2011 World Championships.
At the AT&T American Cup at Madison Square Garden in March, Douglas received the highest total all-around score in the women’s competition, ahead of her teammate and current world champion Jordyn Wieber. However, her scores did not count towards winning the competition because she was an alternate.
At the 2012 U.S. National Championships in June, Douglas won the gold medal in uneven bars, silver in the all-around, and bronze in floor. Martha Karolyi, the National Team Coordinator for USA Gymnastics, nicknamed Douglas the “Flying Squirrel” for her aerial performance on the uneven bars.
After winning a spot on the U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team, Douglas and her teammates were featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated on the July 18, 2012 Olympic Preview issue. This marked the first time an entire Olympic gymnastics team had been featured on the cover of the magazine. She appeared on Rock Center with Brian Williams on July 19, where she discussed her family background and Olympic ambitions. On July 20, Douglas was featured on one of five Olympic covers released that day for Time magazine.
On July 31, Douglas and her teammates, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and Jordyn Wieber, won the team all-around gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics. On August 2, Douglas won the gold medal in the individual all-around, becoming the first African-American woman and first woman of color to win the event. She is also the first American gymnast ever to win both the team and individual all-around gold at the same Olympics.