INDIANAPOLIS — Gabby Douglas‘ mom tells her not to read online comments, but the Olympic all-around champion is clearly motivated by what she’s seen on Facebook and Twitter about her return to the sport.
“People were like, oh, I don’t know if she’s coming back,” Douglas, who took 2013 and 2014 off from competition, said Wednesday. “Some people weren’t taking me seriously. … I’m like, OK, well, guess I’ll just have to show you.”
Douglas did just that in March and July at her first two meets since the London Olympics.
She finished fourth in the all-around at the Jesolo Trophy in Italy on March 28 but was competitive with U.S. gymnasts other than two-time reigning World all-around champion Simone Biles. Douglas then finished runner-up to Biles at the Secret Classic in Hoffman Estates, Ill., on July 25.
“My comeback wasn’t fake, guys,” she said after the Secret Classic.
She enters this weekend’s P&G Championships at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse as arguably the biggest threat to Biles’ national title three-peat attempt. Though Biles is an overwhelming favorite after a 1.9-point victory at the Secret Classic.
Douglas is an unmistakable presence in Indianapolis, partly because a film crew is following her for a TV series about her family that debuts early next year.
“It looks like [it] will be a successful comeback story,” U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi said of not only Douglas but also Aly Raisman, who also took 2013 and 2014 off and was third at Jesolo and fifth at the Secret Classic.
Karolyi has been critical of past comeback attempts, so her praise of Douglas and Raisman should be taken just as seriously as their comebacks.
No woman has made back-to-back U.S. Olympic teams since 2000. Plenty have tried and failed, including five from the 2008 Olympic team.
That’s another way Douglas can disprove the critics.
“When they’ve seen other gymnasts try to come back, it wasn’t that successful,” Douglas said. “So that when we [Raisman and I] want to come back, they’re just like no, no, no, I don’t think so.”
Douglas, who turns 20 on New Year’s Eve, will also try to keep the five-woman U.S. Olympic team in Rio from being an all-teen group as it was in 2012.
Yes, she’s heard people say that gymnasts can’t be competitive at her age.
“Why does everyone think that?” Douglas said. “Where did it all start, that you’re 19, oh, you’re so old? Uh-uh. That’s still young.”
Douglas’ performances on Thursday and Saturday (broadcast schedule here) are just a portion of what will determine if she makes the six-woman team for October’s World Championships.
The final selection will come after a fall national team training camp under Karolyi’s scrutinizing eyes. Douglas has to be considered a favorite to make it with Raisman not far behind, based on the March and July meets.
They know what Karolyi is looking for.
“She’s looking for girls who can be warriors,” said Douglas, who described her mindset at the Secret Classic as being “like a tiger.”
“I’m not going to put my half effort into something,” Douglas said. “That doesn’t make any sense to me, if I would’ve come back and just do it for the fame.”