2012 Olympic champion Gabby Douglas competes for the first time in 8 years at the American Classic

By The Associated Press

Gabby Douglas competes on the balance beam at the American Classic April 27, 2024, in Katy, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

KATY, Texas (AP) — Gabby Douglas is officially back.

Whether the gymnastics star’s return to the sport carries all the way to the Paris Olympics remains to be seen.

Douglas, who became the first Black woman to win the Olympic all-around title when she triumphed in London in 2012, competed for the first time in eight years on April 27 at the American Classic.

The 28-year-old looked rusty in spots and promising in others while posting a score of 50.65 in the all-around. Douglas qualified in multiple events for the U.S. Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, next month. She will get another chance to qualify for the all-around competition at nationals when she takes the floor at the the U.S. Classic in Hartford, Connecticut, on May 18.

Douglas last competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she helped the Americans claim a second straight gold in the team competition. She took an extended break from the sport but never officially retired. The itch to come back returned while watching the 2022 U.S. Championships, and she’s spent the better part of the last two years training in the Dallas area with an eye toward trying to make the five-woman U.S. team that will be heavily favored to win gold in Paris this summer.

Her comeback, however, has been shrouded in mystery. She was supposed to compete at Winter Cup in February but she pulled out of the competition just days before after testing positive for COVID-19. She has limited press exposure and unlike 2020 Olympic gold medalist Sunisa Lee and Jade Carey — both of whom competed at American Classic — she opted not to participate in podium training on April 26.

Douglas walked out onto the floor about an hour before competition and showed flashes of what turned her into a star in London. 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.

There is time for Douglas, but not much. The U.S. Classic is in three weeks. The U.S. Championships are in five and the Olympic Trials await in Minneapolis in late June.

Carey, who won gold on floor exercise in Tokyo, captured the all-around with a score of 55.000 while also recording the top scores on vault and floor. Lee, who has dealt with kidney-related health issues the last two years, put together a dazzling beam routine to win easily with a score of 14.300.

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This story has been corrected to show that Suni Lee competed and won the balance beam competition. A previous version stated she competed and won on the uneven bars.

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

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