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Gabby Douglas, a Trailblazer in Gymnastics, Announces Her Return

Gabby Douglas, who in 2012 became the first Black woman to win the highest individual Olympic gymnastics competition and later drew attention to the abuse perpetrated within the sport, announced on Instagram Thursday that she was returning to competitive gymnastics.

It was not immediately clear when or where Douglas, 27, would next compete after winning three Olympic golds, including two in London in 2012 and one in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. She missed the Tokyo Games in 2021 and a spokesman for U.S.A. Gymnastics said she had not petitioned to take part in its events this year and was not aware of her plans.

Douglas, whose heroics inspired a wave of girls of color to take up gymnastics, signaled her plans in a series of pictures and a video of her training in the gym on the balance beam and uneven bars.

“I know I have a huge task ahead of me and I am beyond grateful and excited to get back out on the floor,” she wrote. “There’s so much to be said but for now … let’s do this.”

Douglas’s mother, who in the past has also been her business manager, Natalie Hawkins, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If Douglas attempts to qualify for the 2024 Paris Games, she may face stiff competition from Simone Biles, who has signaled a return to elite competition, and Sunisa Lee. Both are former all-around champions. Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles, who competed in the Tokyo Games, are also expected to contend for spots.

Douglas was 16 when she became the first Black woman to win the all-around title, at the 2012 London Olympics. Her U.S. squad also won gold in the team competition that year and again in the 2016. The Rio de Janeiro Games that year marked Douglas’s last competition for the national team.

During her career, Douglas repeatedly faced online harassment, receiving criticism for everything from her appearance to her body language. Before returning to Instagram to announce her comeback, Douglas had been on a social media hiatus since August.

Douglas was also among the most prominent figures in gymnastics who came forward with sexual abuse allegations against Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar, the longtime team doctor for U.S.A. Gymnastics, who was accused by more than 160 women. Nassar pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2017 and was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison. He was said to have been stabbed in the chest, back and neck on Sunday at the federal prison in Florida where he is serving his sentence.

“I didn’t publicly share my experiences as well as many other things because for years we were conditioned to stay silent, and honestly some things were extremely painful,” Douglas said in an Instagram post in 2017 in which she acknowledged she had been abused. “I wholeheartedly support my teammates for coming forward with what happened to them.”

Comebacks have proven difficult for other gymnasts. Shawn Johnson, a gold medalist on the team that competed in the 2008 Beijing Games, saw her attempt foiled by knee injuries. Her teammate, Nastia Liukin, also attempted a comeback but failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympic team.

Juliet Macur contributed reporting.

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