The Olympic all-around gymnastics champion left coach Liang Chow’s gym in West Des Moines, Iowa, earlier this week to join her family in California after a recent move from Virginia Beach, Va. The 17-year-old remains on ”good terms” with Chow, Missy Parton, whose family hosted Douglas in Iowa, said Wednesday.
Chow is out of the country and could not be reached for comment. Douglas’ mother, Natalie Hawkins, did not immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.
The Des Moines Register first reported the move.
”She came over (Monday) and said goodbye to us,” Liwen Zhuang, Chow’s wife and co-coach, told the Register. ”I didn’t ask her (the reasons). I did talk to her. She was a little upset. I guess that’s a family decision for her.”
Under Chow’s guidance, Douglas won two gold medals at last summer’s London Olympics. She helped lead the ”Fierce Five” to the team title, only the second for the U.S. women, then became the fourth American to win the all-around title.
The gold medals, along with her bright smile and bubbly personality, kept Douglas in the spotlight long after the Olympics were over. In addition to numerous sponsorship deals, she appeared on magazine covers, walked red carpets and made guest appearances on TV shows. While Douglas enjoys her celebrity status, she has said repeatedly she wants to compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
She returned to Chow’s gym in May, and said last week that she hoped to return to competition sometime next year.
”It’s incredibly hard to come back because after the Olympics, there are so many opportunities you get to do. And I think some people get caught up in, ‘Oh, I don’t want to do another Olympics, I want to keep being in the spotlight,”’ Douglas said while at the U.S. championships in Hartford, Conn. ”I want to come back. I’m three months into training, everything is going well. I’m coming back, and I want to compete in 2014.”
But she has also talked about the strain of living apart from her mother, two sisters and brother.
Douglas left Virginia Beach when she was just 14, telling her mother she needed to train with Chow if she was to have a chance at making the 2012 Olympic team. Hawkins, a single mother, let her go reluctantly.
”Before I called Chow I was literally sick to my stomach because I thought, ‘I am really going to do this. I’m going to send my child away to someone I don’t know, to live with a host family that I’ve never met, know nothing about,”’ Hawkins said before the Olympics. ”And I have to be OK with this. I’m going to be in Virginia, she’s going to be all the way in Iowa. How do you come to terms with that?”
After living with another host family for a few months, Douglas was taken in by Parton and her husband, Travis. The Partons have four daughters, and immediately treated Douglas as if she was their fifth.
But Douglas was still homesick for her own family, missing them so badly that the high schooler briefly considered quitting six months before London.
”It was my decision and my dream, so I couldn’t back down and be a wimp,” Douglas said last year. ”I’m so happy and thrilled that I stayed. If I’d have went home, I wouldn’t have accomplished all (this).”
It is believed that Douglas will train with Chris Waller, the 1991 U.S. men’s champion and member of the 1992 Olympic team. Waller later coached Mohini Bhardwaj, part of the 2004 U.S. women’s team that won the silver medal at the Athens Olympics.