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Gabby Douglas is back for the love of gymnastics

Gabby Douglas

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 02: Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas teaches Jay Pharoah gymnastics on the IMDb Series “Special Skills” in Los Angeles, California. This episode of “Special Skills” airs on March 10, 2020. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb)

Getty Images for IMDb

Gabby Douglas said she is loving gymnastics — the training, at least — having returned to workouts about a year ago after six years away from competition.

The 2012 Olympic all-around gold medalist bids to make the five-woman 2024 Olympic team, which will be decided in June.

“I just missed hearing the equipment, flying through the air, connecting these different types of moves,” she said in a Time Person of the Week podcast published last Thursday, believed to be the first published interview of her comeback.

Then on Wednesday, USA Gymnastics confirmed that Douglas this week participated in her first national team camp in more than seven years. Douglas implied last week on social media that she was traveling to the camp in Katy, Texas.

Attending a camp is often a precursor to competing. Douglas, who turns 28 on New Year’s Eve, has not announced what her first meet back will be.

Some elite gymnasts are expected to compete at the Winter Cup in late February. The Olympic selection season begins in earnest with the U.S. Classic in May.

Douglas last competed at the 2016 Rio Games, winning a second consecutive team gold medal. She left the sport after that.

“I was going through so much,” she said, specifically noting what she called a “controversy” over her selection for the five-woman 2016 team.

Douglas had struggles at the meets that decided that team, placing fourth in the all-around at the 2016 U.S. Championships and seventh at the Olympic Trials.

The team is not necessarily chosen directly from results, but decided via selection committee. In her corner was her experience, a strong 2015 season (world all-around silver medal despite a knee injury) and her prowess on uneven bars, a relatively weak apparatus for the U.S.

Still, Douglas was aware of the critics.

“I had to deal with that part of not feeling worthy of being on that team,” Douglas said.

Her mom, Natalie Hawkins, said outside negativity carried over through the Rio Games.

“I know it wasn’t the whole world, but it sort of felt like it was,” she said in December 2016. “We couldn’t go on her time feed without seeing just the most hateful, the most disgusting things.”

Douglas called it “backlash” and said more was “going on behind the scenes that people didn’t know.”

“I was like, OK, I need to take a break for myself and step back completely and work on me because it took a lot out of me physically, mentally, emotionally,” she said. “And so I was like, I’m never looking at a leotard, never touching the gym.”

So why the comeback?

“I never wanted to have a hatred for the sport that I love,” she said. “I don’t want to end it that way. I’ve never announced retirement. I always kept in the back of my mind, like, we have to finish on a better note.”