Gabby Douglas returns to gymnastics training, coach confirms
Gabby Douglas, the 2012 Olympic all-around champion, returned to training at a gymnastics center, six years after her last meet, but she has not announced a competitive comeback.
Gymnastics coach Valeri Liukin said Friday that Douglas has been working very hard at his family’s World Olympic Gymnastics Academy (WOGA) in Texas, confirming previous reports that did not name sources from last autumn.
Liukin was speaking to NBC Sports’ John Roethlisberger at the Winter Cup in Louisville. The next major meet is the U.S. Championships in August.
Douglas has not made any public statements about training or her gymnastics career.
A representative for Douglas said in late December that there was “nothing to report’ at the time when asked to comment on Douglas’ gymnastics future and the reports of her return to training, which included a photo that appeared to be taken at WOGA with coach Anna Liukin addressing a group of gymnasts including Douglas. Douglas’ gym affiliation was also changed on her USA Gymnastics bio to WOGA.
WOGA produced the two Olympic all-around champions before Douglas -- Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin -- and reigning U.S. all-around champion Konnor McClain.
Douglas, 27, last competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics, winning a second consecutive team gold medal. For the next six years, there were no reports of her training, but she never announced a retirement.
If Douglas makes a run for the 2024 Paris Games, she will bid to become the oldest U.S. Olympic female gymnast since 1952, according to Olympedia.org. Suni Lee and Simone Biles, the last two Olympic all-around gold medalists, could also return to elite competition this year or next, which could make for an unprecedented field of champions at domestic meets.
Lee said in November that she plans to return to elite gymnastics after her current sophomore season at Auburn ends in April. Biles has said she is undecided about returning before the 2024 Paris Games, but has kept her name in a drug-testing pool to make a potential comeback easier. Neither has competed on the elite level since the Tokyo Games.
It is rare for an Olympian in any sport to return from a break of more than a year or two.
In gymnastics, Annia Hatch competed at the 1996 World Championships for Cuba, retired in 1997, became a U.S. citizen, returned to major competition in 2002 and made the 2004 U.S. Olympic team at age 26.
In 2021, 2008 Olympian Chellsie Memmel ended a nine-year retirement. She competed at nationals as a 32-year-old mother of two and did not make Olympic Trials.
Douglas, a Virginia Beach native, started gymnastics at age 6 in 2002 and left her family in 2010 to train in West Des Moines, Iowa, under Liang Chow, who had led Shawn Johnson to four medals at the Beijing Games.
The move paid off. After finishing fourth in the junior all-around at the 2010 U.S. Championships, Douglas moved up to senior in 2011 and was the youngest member of that year’s world championships team that took gold.
Douglas soared even higher in 2012. That March, she posted the highest all-around score at the American Cup, ahead of world champion Jordyn Wieber.
Douglas then took second to Wieber at the U.S. Championships and won the Olympic Trials, setting her up as an all-around gold-medal contender in London.
In the Olympic all-around final, Douglas won by the second-closest margin of victory (.259 of a point over Russian Viktoria Komova) under the scoring system implemented after the 2004 Athens Games.
She became the first Black gymnast to capture an Olympic all-around title and the third consecutive American after Patterson and Liukin. Biles and Lee extended the streak at the last two Games.
After London, Douglas took two full years off from competition, bouncing from Iowa to Los Angeles to Iowa to Ohio at different training gyms. She returned in 2015, along with Aly Raisman, determined to become the first gymnast to make back-to-back U.S. Olympic women’s teams since 2000.
Douglas was shaky at first but peaked at the October 2015 World Championships, taking the all-around silver medal behind Biles.
Douglas then won the March 2016 American Cup, her first all-around title since the London Games.
Douglas had struggles at the meets that decided the five-woman Rio Olympic team, placing fourth in the all-around at the U.S. Championships and seventh at the Olympic Trials.
Still, Douglas was chosen for the squad, based partly on her experience, her strong 2015 season and her skill on uneven bars.
Douglas tried to defend her all-around title in Rio but was outscored by Biles and Raisman in qualifying. A nation can advance no more than two gymnasts per individual Olympic final, so Douglas’ defense ended there, even though her qualifying score would have earned silver in the all-around final.
She helped the U.S. to repeat gold in the team event and, in her most recent competitive routine, placed seventh in the bars final.
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