It's been a year since the 2012 Olympics, and while two gymnasts from the gold medal-winning Fierce Five have returned to competition, the biggest star has not: Gabby Douglas. This week, Douglas made a decision that makes it less likely we'll ever see her in competition again. Douglas informed her coach Liang Chow that she would be leaving his gym in West Des Moines, Iowa to train in Los Angeles. It's an indication she's less serious about continuing her training. Chow's wife, Liwen Zhuang, joked to The Des Moines Register, "I think maybe they like to be in a warm place after she became a celebrity or something."
This has made the gymternet cry. Though the 17-year-old gymnast has talked about training for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Douglas only restarted training in May. After becoming famous, it's often hard for gymnasts to return to the grueling training schedule that made them successful, especially because they are usually teenagers and want to do the teenage things they finally have the freedom to do. L.A. will be more convenient for some of Douglas's TV appearances.
In those appearances, Douglas looked to be in really good shape. She doesn't appear to face the same problem that Olympic teammate Kyla Ross faced: a growth spurt of three or four inches. Yet Ross and McKayla Maroney both competed at national championships this month, and are expected to on the team at world championships in September. (GIF of Maroney winning floor at nationals at left.) Both have stayed with their coaches.
Rumors that Douglas was leaving Chow's had been floating around. Her brother is going to school in Los Angeles, and the family is moving too. "We were not really sure for a long time, because we heard from other people first," Liwen told the Register. "Nothing was really confirmed. We didn’t really know for sure. We heard some rumors... It’s kind of awkward." Douglas will be training with UCLA assistant head coach Chris Waller, the Examiner reports. (UCLA has a strong gymnastics program.) Waller coached Mohini Bhardwaj when she made the 2004 Olympics, with which she won a silver medal in the team competition.
Douglas went to Chow's in 2010. He'd coached Shawn Johnson to win gold at the 2007 world championships and 2008 Olympics. Douglas had attended one of his clinics, where he taught her the Amanar vault in one afternoon. After training with Chow for less than a year, she made the world championships team in 2011. By early 2012, she beat Jordyn Wieber, who was expected to be the next Olympic champion, at the American Cup. After Douglas won the gold in the all-around at the Olympics, Martha Karolyi told The New York Times she couldn't remember "anybody this quickly rising from an average good gymnast to a fantastic one."
Could Douglas sustain what she learned from Chow at another gym? It's possible. But if Douglas wants to win again, she'll have to do better than that. Because after each Olympics, the rules change to make gymnastics harder. To beat the new, younger gymnasts, Douglas will have to learn even more tricks.