Gabby Douglas to make competitive comeback at Winter Cup, nearly 8 years after Rio Olympics

By Patricia Duffy | February 6, 2024
Gabby Douglas on beam at the 2016 American Cup.
© Amy Sanderson/Gymnastics Now

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas has set her comeback meet, nearly eight years after her last elite competition at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Douglas, who has been back in the gym for over a year, announced Tuesday on NBC’s Hallie Jackson NOW that she will compete at Winter Cup – the unofficial kickoff meet of USA Gymnastics’ domestic season. The meet is set for February 23-25 at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

After Douglas’ current coach, WOGA’s Valeri Liukin, confirmed her comeback last February, she formally announced her return in July:

“Hey guys, long time no post,” Douglas said on Instagram. “As you all know, I stepped back from the socials, and in that time, I did a lot of journaling, reflecting, soul searching and found myself back where it all began. It’s so easy to suppress and run away from facing darkness and fears for many years; I’ve had an ache in my heart, but I didn’t want to keep carrying anger, pain, sadness, or regret, and through my tears and hurt, I’ve found peace.

“I wanted to find the joy again for the sport that I absolutely love doing. I know I have a huge task ahead of me, and I am beyond grateful and excited to get back out on the floor and even more grateful for all of your support and love. It truly means so much. There’s so much to be said, but for now…. let’s do this. #2024”

Douglas has since teased a few clips of her training, including stunning pirouettes on bars and beam work, and she returned to national team camp in November.

If Douglas were to make the U.S. women’s team for Paris, it would mark her third Olympic Games. Assuming Simone Biles also makes the team, the two would join a small group of women who have competed for the U.S. at three games: Dominique Dawes, Linda Metheny, and Muriel Davis-Grossfeld.

Add in Sunisa Lee, the reigning Olympic all-around champion, and the U.S. could have a certifiable dream team in Paris.

Keep reading for what Douglas had to say in the announcement interview with Jackson. Some questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Hallie Jackson: What made you want to come back?

Gabby Douglas: I was watching the 2022 championships. I was like, man, I miss competing. And I was trying to figure out how to get this kind of like, I’m still a competitor at heart, kind of get this out of me. So I decided to start back training and kind of take time for myself. And then I found myself in the gym. And I was like, all right, maybe we could just do this again. And from that moment on, I just started training and I was like, wow, I can’t believe I’m in this spot again.

HJ: Does this mean you have your sights set on Paris for the Olympics this summer?

GD: Oh, definitely. Most definitely. Definitely taking it one day at a time. But I’m honestly super excited to get back out there.

HJ: What would that mean to you to be competing in what would be your third Olympics?

GD: It would mean a lot. You know, it’s definitely a lot of hard work that I’ve had to put into it, but it would mean a lot. I would just love to go back out there and represent USA, you know, just one more time and just have to have that feeling of being a part of something, being a part of a team again would be amazing – a huge honor.

HJ: This will be your first true competition in eight years. And if you do make the Olympics, you’d be, at the age of 28, the oldest American woman to compete in gymnastics since the 1950s. How are you thinking about the demands on you now physically, and preparation wise and training wise, for a moment like this?

GD: Honestly, I’m just super grateful for my body to be able to hold up to this sport, and I’ve been doing a lot of recovery, a lot of things with what goes into my body, and it’s honestly helped me out very much, and I think… I don’t know. I just – I love it. I love pushing myself to the limit, and I think when you love something and you’re willing to work for your craft, it’ll work for you.

HJ: What’s your season look like [after Winter Cup]?

GD: So it’s Winter Cup and then a few more assignments on the side, and then it’s [Core Hydration Classic], [Xfinity U.S. Gymnastics Championships], and [Olympic Trials], and then, hopefully, the Olympics.

HJ: Do you see this as a comeback for you?

GD: Yeah, I guess it sort of is. I never really announced a retirement. I just loved… I didn’t want to end this sport how I did in 2016, and I wanted to take a step back and work on myself and work on my mental state. And I love gymnastics. Like I said, I love pushing myself every single day, and I love the sport, so I never wanted to walk away on a bad day. And I want to make sure – I know I’ve said it before – but I really want to make sure that I really put my all and end on a good note. And, honestly, like I’m super just so grateful for everyone for the love and support. It’s really, really motivating, and I’m just super grateful.

HJ: What message do you hope that this moment sends now to young women, or really anybody who is watching you, who is hearing you talk about setting your sights on a dream, on Paris, and going for it?

GD: I would say if you truly love what you do, then go for it. Never let someone’s limited view limit you and go for the moon. We only live once, so why not go and try it.

HJ: Can you even think about you, Simone Biles, the USA gymnastics team – if it happens for the Olympics in Paris? How are you even processing that?

GD: I’m honestly taking it one day at a time. It’s honestly going to be very very crazy. But I’m going to do kind of the same procedure that I did in 2012, 2016. Take it one day at a time, one accomplishment at a time, and then go from there.

HJ: [Bars] is your thing… I imagine that’s going to be a big focus to?

GD: Oh, for sure, yes. Yes. That’s the one thing – I’ve been spending time on all four events, but a little bit more time on bars because I love it, and I just… You know what I mean, like, that’s the one event, in my opinion, that I really want to, you know… do well on.

Q: Any last words of advice for people watching you – anything that you’re feeling in your heart? You feeling nervous? You feeling excited? All of the above?

GD: I honestly am feeling, excited, nervous, grateful, a little bit timid, but you know, I think that’s normal. It’s been such a long time, but like I said, I’m so excited to get back out there, be with everyone, get that kind of like competitive – gotta get my feet wet a little bit after eight years out – and then I’ll be… good to go.

One thought on “Gabby Douglas to make competitive comeback at Winter Cup, nearly 8 years after Rio Olympics

  1. Will be cool to see Gabby back in elite competition. Simone is a given for Paris simply on past success alone. Sunni should be a lock as well. Would like to see see her get a second consecutive all-around title at the highest level in her sport. My only concern is for the future of Team USA if this year’s group are well into their 20s…… possibly pushing 30. They set a minimum age for international competition… do they need to look at a possible sport by sport maximum age as well??…. Kids are gonna start dropping-out of or simply not bothering with sports……if a handful of go-to’s get 3…4….5 Olympic experiences……that has the next group waiting a minimum of 12 years….. which will make them Olympic “rookies” at late 20s or older…..or maybe like everything else I’m over-thinking this…….

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