The Latest on Gabby Douglas' Comeback

Gabby Douglas Olympic Gymnastics Photo
© Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Remember Gabby?

Gabby Douglas was the 2012 Olympic all-around champion, becoming the first American gymnast in history to win both the team gold (with The Fierce Five) and the all-around gold at the Olympics.

Comeback Watch (most recent info is first)

Oct. 30, 2015: Douglas had a phenomenal competition at 2015 worlds, winning second all-around behind Simone Biles, helping the team win its third consecutive gold medal, and earning fourth on bars in event finals.

She has firmly cemented herself as a key contender for the Rio Olympic team.

Oct. 8, 2015: Douglas is named to the 2015 world team and will represent the US at worlds for the first time since 2011.

Aug. 15, 2015: Douglas competes at the 2015 US nationals, placing fifth all-around and fourth on bars. She is named to the national team, and invited to the world team selection camp.

July 25, 2015: Douglas competes in the 2015 US Classic, placing an impressive second in the all-around, and qualifying to the 2015 US nationals. (Get results, highlights and video here.)

Mar. 31, 2015: Douglas and her family announce that they will star in a reality TV show on the Oxygen network, about her bid to become the first Olympic all-around champion to repeat in nearly 50 years.

Mar. 28, 2015: Douglas competes at the Jesolo Trophy in the all-around and team finals, scoring fourth highest in the all-around, fifth on bars, fourth on beam, and sixth on floor.

Due to two-per-country rules, she didn't qualify to any event finals, but few could argue that her competitive debut was impressive. Results: Team Final | All-Around Final | Event Qualifications

March 2015: Douglas is named to the US team for the Jesolo Trophy and will compete on Mar. 28th and 29th alongside Olympic teammates Aly Raisman and Kyla Ross, and two-time world all-around champ Simone Biles.

 

Feb. 2015: USA Gymnastics posts a video interview with Douglas that shows more training footage. Of note: An awesome low-bar combo at 2:27.

Dec. 2014: espnW does an in-depth story on Gabby Douglas' comeback with some video of her training and explanation of why she and Chow parted ways. One key quote, from Douglas: "I'm stronger than I was last time around...I think it's a maturity level. When I'm tumbling, I'm like, 'Wow. This is so much easier than before.'"

Nov. 2014: USA Gymnastics announces that Douglas is back on the national team following a training camp. More info.

Sept. 2014: Douglas talks about training at Buckeye in a feature in The Columbus Dispatch. Key quote: "[Coaches] Kittia and Fernando said try it out, and if you don’t like it, that’s fine, and if you do, that’s great,” Douglas said. “But I’m staying. I’m a Buckeye.”

Aug. 2014: Douglas is now training at Buckeye Gymnastics in Columbus, Ohio, alongside junior national runner-up Nia Dennis. More info, from USA Today.

July 2014: Douglas splits with Chow for reasons that aren't explained. More info, from the AP.

June 2014: USA Gymnastics published a quick story on the June national camp, including the following quote on Douglas, from US national team coordinator (read: the boss) Martha Karolyi: "I was pleasantly surprised at the excellent fitness level of Gabby Douglas at the June National Team camp," said Karolyi.

"After reviewing her training for the past five days, I feel with consistent training between now and September, she has a reasonable chance to get back into full shape prior to World Championships."

May 2014: Douglas will attend the June national team training camp at the Karolyi Ranch in New Waverley, Texas. More from Universal Sports.

April 2014: Douglas moved back to Iowa to train with Liang Chow, who coached her at the Olympics and in the two years preceding the Games. More on her move, from the AP. One key quote: "Douglas likely will spend the next few months conditioning and seeing whether there's enough time for her to pull off a comeback before the Rio Olympics in 2016."

 

(Note: This section below is mostly outdated now that Douglas has successfully returned to competition at the 2015 worlds, but we'll leave it here because of the insight it provides into some of the opportunities and challenges she'll face going into Rio.)

Can She Do It?

We say yes -- she can make it back to competition, and possibly even to the highest level again.

The opportunities. Douglas has only competed in one worlds (in 2011) before becoming Olympic champion in 2012 -- at the tender age of 16. Other gymnasts have been equally young (Carly Patterson, for example, was also 16 when she won the Olympic all-around, and had only competed in one worlds), but while Patterson had competed approximately the same skills for years coming into the Olympics, Douglas had not.

Douglas made such rapid improvements in the two years preceding the Olympics, and seemed to steadily add new elements to her repertoire. She also seemed capable of competing more difficulty even at the Olympics. This bodes well for a potential return to competition. The sport has moved forward since 2012, but Douglas seems to have the ability to move forward as well. She also seems to be an ultra-talent, with the ability to pick up new skills quickly. Also to her advantage? She's had very few injuries, so her body may be up for a return.

The challenges. Obviously, two years on and off from the sport, and now training under a new coach at Buckeye Gymnastics. Douglas will have to get back to where she was in 2012 first, then upgrade with new routines and adapt to the new rules that have been added since the London Games. And she has the challenge of being a superstar in gymnastics. Everyone is watching her every move and the distractions are great. This may be why no Olympic all-around champ has returned to the Games since Nadia Comaneci in 1980.

There are lots of other opportunities for Douglas, and she's reached the pinnacle of the sport before, so getting motivated the second time around, when it's even tougher, would be a challenge for anyone.

More on Gabby:

Gabby Douglas bio
Gabby Douglas photo gallery
The top 5 American gymnasts of all time