Gabby Douglas’ winding road through gold medals at two Olympics

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Gabby Douglas‘ path to become the world’s best gymnast took her from Virginia Beach to West Des Moines, Iowa. To return for a second Olympics in 2016, Douglas went from Iowa to Los Angeles back to Iowa and finally to Columbus, Ohio.

Douglas and the 2012 U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team are featured on NBCSN’s Olympic Games Week coverage on Thursday night. A full schedule is here.

In October 2010 at age 14, Douglas moved from her home in Virginia Beach to live with a host family and train under Liang Chow, who coached Shawn Johnson to Olympic stardom in 2008.

Before the relocation, Douglas had finished fourth at the 2010 U.S. Junior Championships. In her first year under Chow, she was seventh in her senior nationals debut yet still named to the six-woman team for the world championships, where she earned a team gold but did not advance to the all-around final.

Douglas’ breakout came on March 3, 2012 inside Madison Square Garden, at the American Cup, the biggest annual international meet held in the U.S. She competed as an alternate since the U.S.’ two official spots were taken by Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman, the top Americans from 2011. Nevertheless, Douglas posted an all-around score that would have won the meet over Wieber.

From there, Douglas took second to Wieber at nationals and won the Olympic Trials to become the Olympic favorite. In London, Douglas became the first black gymnast to win an Olympic all-around, prevailing by a slim .259 over Russian Viktoria Komova.

Douglas took nine months off from the gym after the London Games. She returned to Iowa in May 2013. In a little more than a year, Douglas traded time in Des Moines and LA before landing in Ohio for good.

Douglas and Raisman both attempted a daunting task — become the first woman to make back-to-back U.S. Olympic gymnastics teams since 2000. They both came back at the March 2015 Jesolo Trophy in Italy. Seven months later, Douglas took all-around silver at the world championships behind Simone Biles.

In 2016, Douglas won the American Cup and appeared destined for the Rio Games. Even with some struggles at nationals and Olympic Trials, she was picked for the five-woman Olympic team (as a leader with Raisman and Biles). She became the first Olympic all-around champion to return for the following Olympics since Nadia Comaneci in 1980.

Douglas’ all-around title defense was short-lived. She was third overall in qualifying, but the top two were Biles and Raisman. With no more than two per country allowed in individual gymnastics finals, Douglas did not advance, but did help the U.S. team to a repeat gold.

Douglas hasn’t competed since the Rio Olympics but has not officially announced a retirement.

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