article by Rachel Axon via usatoday.com
NEWARK, N.J. – The world championships silver medal should have been enough to erase any doubt in Gabby Douglas’ comeback.
Yes, the reigning Olympic all-around gold medalist is trying to do what has been a sometimes insurmountable task for many talented gymnasts – come back for a second Olympics. And Douglas isn’t coming back for some sort of participation ribbon.
But in case any doubts lingered, she put more to rest on Saturday. Now 20, Douglas wants to achieve more in the Olympics. She set herself on that path by winning the American Cup at the Prudential Center, earning her first trip to the top of the podium since winning the Olympic all-around in London in 2012.
“From the bottom of my heart, I really believe that I can achieve more,” Douglas said. “And it’s just not for the wrong intentions. I’m like, ‘Guys, I’m back. I’m serious.’ I feel like gradually and the more and more I keep proving that, I really hope that people believe it.”
To be sure, part of those doubts are the challenge. Since 1980, only six American women have gone on to compete in a second Olympics. No woman has repeated as gold medalist since Věra Čáslavská in 1968.
Douglas hears the doubts about her and whether the comeback is for publicity. It’s not, or she wouldn’t be able to sustain herself through training. Instead, she has the incredible urge former national team coordinator Bela Karolyi has seen in many other Olympians.
“She’s one of a kind. I’ve never seen something like that in my life,” said Karolyi, husband of current national team coordinator Martha Karolyi. “She made a clear statement. She’s a super talent, a super talented young lady. If somebody in my life has a chance to repeat, she’s the one.”
Like everyone, Karolyi notes that Simone Biles – the three-time defending world champion – presents a formidable challenge and is almost unbeatable.
But Douglas further made her case for the legitimacy of her comeback with the win here, and with this win she actually got the cup. Douglas competed in this event in 2012 as an alternate whose scores did not count. She still posted the highest score that night, kicking off her run to London gold.
On Saturday, she finished with a score of 60.165 after posting the high score on every apparatus except floor exercise. That nod went to teammate Maggie Nichols, who finished second with a score of 59.699.
Douglas was clean on her routines, including on uneven bars where she had the most difficult set by .6 points or more. She attacked her balance beam routine with aggressiveness.
By her own admission, Douglas said she can struggle with the monotony of training and needs periodic competition to keep pushing herself. When the lights came on Saturday, though, she had the confidence to deliver.
“I feel good that we put her in this competition because otherwise who knows where would be her training,” said Martha Karolyi. “She always should have not only a long-term goal but a short-term goal and make sure that she will put the effort to fulfill this goal. And if we leave her without goals on the track, then she may fall behind with her training. I think she did a very good job and she’s aggressive and confident enough.”
“If she manages to add, to update the difficulty level of the performances, then she’s going to be a hell of a competitor for Simone,” said Bela Karolyi. “These two, again, they’re going to be able to show us to a major performance in the coming Olympic Games.”