Eight years later: Gabby Douglas is back with Paris 2024 on the horizon

The American gymnast is a three-time Olympic gold medallist at London 2012 and Rio 2016. She finished tenth at the American Classic last weekend and will compete at the US Championships. It's another step towards her dream of returning to the Olympic stage eight years after she hasn't competed since Rio 2016. She decided to come back in 2023 and announced her return to competition in early 2024.

When Gabby Douglas decided to retire from gymnastics, the sport was shaken. At London 2012 and Rio 2016, she was a three-time Olympic champion. She was also world champion in 2011 and 2015. She was everything. But her body - or rather her mind - couldn't take it any more. She needed a break. To stop. To take a step back from high-level competition.

However exceptional athletes can't switch off their instincts like a television. They can't just say enough and forget about it. "I never really announced my retirement. I never wanted to end this sport like I did in 2016. I wanted to take a step back. Work on myself. Work on my mental state. I love gymnastics", said.

"I love pushing myself every day and I love the sport, so I never wanted to leave on a bad day. And really, I just want to make sure that I give it my all and that I finish on a good note," she explained in February last year when she announced her intention to compete, as reported by Around the Rings

Gabby Douglas, in the center, after winning one of her golds at London 2012. GETTY IMAGES
Gabby Douglas, in the center, after winning one of her golds at London 2012. GETTY IMAGES

Someone who was everything and wanted to continue to be everything couldn't retire like that. In 2022, the idea of coming back was born.In 2023 it was put into action. In 2024 she'll be back. She wants to be part of the US team at the Paris Olympics in 2024. It's been a long time since she's competed at the highest level. And her mental health has thanked her for it.

At 28, her career has been precocious. She won her first gold medal at London 2012 at the age of 16. Together with McKayla Maroney, Alexandra Raisman, Kyla Ross and Jordyn Wieber, she won back-to-back team titles. They were known as the Fierce Five. Four years later, at the age of 20, she repeated the feat at Rio 2016 alongsideSimone Biles, Alexandra Raisman, Madison Kocian and Lauren Hernandez.

She was part of that successful US team, along with Simon Biles. Biles would go on to succeed her on the individual podium at Tokyo 2020. Biles, too, had to deal with the excessive pressure and demands of the sport, saying enough is enough and retreating into herself to overcome mental health issues. Both have come back. They are back.

Douglas was subdued in the Texas competition that will be remembered as her comeback. However, her performances on vaulting and beam look promising. From 27 to 30 June, the trials will be held in Minneapolis to select the athletes for Paris 2024. Prior to that, the names of the gymnasts with a chance to represent the USA at Paris 2024 will be announced. This comes in May at the US Championships, where Douglas has already qualified.

Douglas is a pioneer. She is the first African-American to be an individual Olympic champion in any discipline and the first American gymnast to win individual and team gold at the same Olympics.

Gabby Douglas poses at a public event in front of the cameras. GETTY IMAGES
Gabby Douglas poses at a public event in front of the cameras. GETTY IMAGES

Her story is so great, despite her age. It has been the subject of a film, a TV series and even a book about her life. It was her sister who persuaded their mother to enrol Gabby in gymnastics when she was just six years old. The future was written. Ten years later she won her first Olympic medal. At 14, she moved to Iowa. She left her family in Virginia. There she began training full-time and had to deal with the new situation of having her family far away. She overcame it. She triumphed.

After deciding to retire, Gabby admitted in a personal interview conducted by Olympic gold medallist Aly Raisman that she was one of the victims of Larry Nassar, the team doctor accused by 125 gymnasts. In 2018, Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse. She has been the subject of criticism, even from her teammate Simone Biles. Douglas apologised. All that is now in the past. But the most important thing is that she is back and eager to fulfil a dream.