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Gabby Douglas: Cartwheeling Back Into Spotlight

By Amy Rosewater | June 23, 2014, 12:44 p.m. (ET)

Gabby Douglas attends The 2013 ESPY Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on July 17, 2013 in Los Angeles.

Gabby Douglas kept checking in on the U.S. men’s soccer team, which is playing in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, and as she was cheering for Team USA, she also thought about what she was seeing on TV.

It wasn’t just soccer.

Gabby Douglas high fives participants after breaking the world 
record for most consecutive cartwheels at Roberto Clemente
Bridge on June 23, 2014 in Pittsburgh.

It was Brazil, the site of the upcoming Olympic Games in 2016. Brazil just happens to be the ultimate destination spot for Douglas, the reigning all-around gymnastics gold medalist.

“I am totally excited for Rio,” Douglas told TeamUSA.org. “Seeing it (on TV) definitely makes me even more excited.”

Douglas has the Olympic Games on her mind a lot but especially today as she is in Pittsburgh, the site of the 2014 P&G Gymnastics Championships, which will be held Aug. 21-24. She is there to promote both nationals and Olympic Day, which celebrates the birth of the modern Olympic Games.

As part of the celebration, Douglas teamed up with gymnasts from 14 Pittsburgh-area gymnastics club and more than several hundred of her closest friends on the Roberto Clemente Bridge to perform a world-record 735 simultaneous cartwheels. The previous record was 482 set July 9, 2009, in the Netherlands.

“I’ve been working hard to get that cartwheel,” Douglas said with a laugh.

Kidding aside, Douglas has been working pretty hard lately. After winning the gold medal in both the all-around and the team event as part of the Fierce Five in London in 2012, she took time off from training. She returned to Des Moines, Iowa, to work with coach Liang Chow in April, and went to her first training camp with Marta Karolyi earlier this month.

“I’ve progressed very well in my training,” Douglas said. “Camp went really well and I’ll be back in camp at the end of this month (June 29-July 3). It feels great to be back. My body feels great. Just getting back in the swing of things feels good.”

As far as competing this summer, Douglas said, “We’ll see,” but added that “I would love to compete this year.”

Nationals would be an important step on the comeback trail for Douglas. The world championships are set for Oct. 3-13 in Nanning, China. Douglas would need to squeeze in a competition to qualify for nationals, potentially the 2014 Secret U.S. Classic outside of Chicago on Aug. 2, but she might be able to petition for a spot at nationals.

Leading up to the London Games, Douglas struggled with being separated from her family, which was based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. There were many times she thought about quitting gymnastics and returning home.

“It has been a little easier this time,” Douglas said. “I’m 18 now, and I’ve matured a lot. It’s not like last time. And I FaceTime and text my family all the time.”

Amy Rosewater is a freelance writer and editor for TeamUSA.org. A former sports reporter for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, she covered her fifth Olympic Games in Sochi. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today.

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