Gabby Douglas has a new coach and a new game plan in her comeback.
The defending Olympic women’s gymnastics champion told The Associated Press on Friday she remains intent on defending her all-around title in Rio in 2016 but will spend the rest of this year focusing on developing new routines with coach Kittia Carpenter.
The 18-year-old Douglas joined Carpenter’s elite program at Buckeye Gymnastics in Columbus, Ohio, last week. Douglas and longtime coach Liang Chow parted ways in July.
”I wasn’t looking to leave Iowa, but I was placed in a position where I had to make a decision to find another coach,” Douglas said. ”Even though I have had to make that change, I’m committed to working hard to be a part of the 2016 Rio Olympic Team.”
Douglas returned to training at Chow’s gym in West Des Moines in April and impressed U.S women’s team coordinator Martha Karolyi, who thought Douglas could be ready to compete in the world championships in China this year. Douglas said in June she hoped to participate in the all-around at the U.S. championships in Pittsburgh later this month but instead will focus on building her relationship with Carpenter and regaining the form that helped her become the first American gymnast to win the all-around and team gold in the same Olympics.
”Martha and I discussed the need for me to focus on my current training plans and to continue the consistent momentum I have been building,” she said. ”I am looking forward to competing again soon for Team USA.”
Carpenter’s program includes rising junior Nia Dennis, who is competing at the Secret Classic in Chicago on Saturday.
”They have a strong elite competitive program and I am very honored to pursue my journey to Rio with them,” Douglas said.
Douglas added she is ”overwhelmed” by the response since she started working in Ohio and is confident she and Carpenter ”can accomplish great things together.”
No woman has repeated as all-around Olympic champion since 1968.
Douglas took a lengthy sabbatical from training following her rapid rise to Olympic champion. She moved to California last fall to be closer to her family and capitalize on the commercial opportunities that arose after her stirring triumph at the O2 Arena.
She headed back to Iowa in the spring and made significant progress. Douglas said in June she’s ”80 percent” of where she was at in London and joked her banged up wrists were proof of how hard she’s working.
Douglas said she’s training ”harder than ever” with Carpenter as they try to return to a stacked U.S. team that includes defending world and national champion Simone Biles.