Olympic champion Gabby Douglas' comeback takes another important step at the U.S. Classic


HARTFORD, Conn. — Olympic gymnastics champion Gabby Douglas’ comeback following an eight-year layoff will take another important step on Saturday at the U.S. Classic.

Douglas, who became the first Black woman to win the Olympic all-around title when she soared to gold at the 2012 London Games, is among a star-studded field that will compete at the XL Center in the last major tuneup before the U.S. Championships.

The meet also includes 2016 Olympic champion Simone Biles and 2020 Olympic champion Sunisa Lee as well as Olympic medalists Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles, among others.

Douglas, 28, competed for the first time in eight years at the American Classic in Katy, Texas last month. While there was some noticeable rust, Douglas also showed flashes of why she is intent on making a run at the five-woman U.S. team that will head to Paris as heavy favorites in August.

Travel issues prevented Douglas from landing in Connecticut until early Friday morning. She estimated she got about two hours of sleep but felt it was important to get comfortable on the equipment in her first competition in a large venue since helping the U.S. team win gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

“I felt like, so much nostalgia,” Douglas said.

Nostalgia will likely give way to jitters when she salutes the judges on Saturday. While she acknowledged there may be more than a few butterflies at the U.S. Classic, she also stressed, “it’s a really fun moment.”

A somewhat unexpected one, too. Douglas went on a sabbatical that looked an awful lot like retirement after leaving Rio.

“It ended rough for me in 2016 so I didn’t want to end on that note,” Douglas said. “Regardless of the outcome, I wanted to make sure, like, I end on love and joy instead of hating something that I loved.”

She felt the pangs to return while watching the 2022 U.S. Championships and has spent nearly two years training in the Dallas area preparing for this moment.

She’s had a couple of weeks to regroup after the American Classic, which hinted at the talent she still has at an age when most American elite gymnasts have long since retired.

Her double-twisting Yurchenko on vault had plenty of amplitude and on bars — her best event — she had the pieces of a routine that would certainly be competitive at the elite level.

The challenge will be finding a way to put all the pieces together consistently.

Douglas came off bars twice and her floor routine lacked the crispness and endurance to stack up with what will be required for anyone hoping to make a serious bid for the Olympic team.

She’s not looking for perfection on Saturday, just improvement.

“I just want to go out there and do my very best and not try too hard or try too much,” Douglas told reporters. “Just try to do my normal.”

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AP Summer Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games



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