Winter Cup results — Gabby Douglas drops more big news

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, March 2, 2024

Happy gymnastics Saturday. Well, after last week’s news that Gabby Douglas had COVID and wouldn’t compete at Winter Cup, this week we heard that she is no longer training at WOGA

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Douglas had confirmed that she was training at the Plano, Texas, gym last July, though her presence there had been an open secret since 2022, when GymCastic first broke that she was training elite again. Valeri Liukin, Douglas’s then-coach and WOGA’s co-owner, told NBC Sports in February that Douglas was training with him. 

We saw some awesome work come out of her training there. 

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Some of the discourse on the gymternet about Douglas’s leaving WOGA really rubbed me the wrong way. There was a lot of chatter about “gym-hopping,” which has been part of Douglas’s narrative since the run-up to the 2012 Olympics (which, you may recall, she won). It re-emerged in 2016 as Douglas made her second Olympic team, with the news that she had left Liang Chow, the coach who accompanied her to London, for Buckeye Gymnastics. There, she switched coaches just a few months before the Rio Games, which led to even more rumors — most of which were unkind, and which I think fed into the truly awful stories that circulated around her while she was in Rio, all tinged with racism. These rumors included her alleged isolation from her teammates, her hair, her makeup, even her presence on the team itself. 

Gym-hopping is not a new phenomenon in gymnastics, nor is it limited to Douglas. In the 80’s, when elite coaches who could take gymnasts as far as the Olympics were few and far between, we saw it often. In the 90’s, Kerri Strug was reputed to be a gym-hopper though, in her case, it often seemed to be about looking for the right level of polish and not a personal deficit. There have long been rumors in the elite gymnastics world about coaches refusing to take athletes from rival gyms for fear of causing rifts that would in turn cause national leadership to leave their pupils off prestigious teams. Indeed, that was an oft-cited rumor with Douglas’s switch from Chow’s to Buckeye — that she had trouble finding a new coach because no one wanted to earn the ire of Martha Karolyi, who ran the national team at the time. 

But (IMHO) the stories about Douglas always seem to come back to the racism that dogged her Olympic experiences. She’s rumored to be dramatic, to be surrounded by shady operatives. Her family is criticized. The story is rarely about the gymnastics, it’s about the person. And it’s not fair. Douglas told Oprah Winfrey in August 2012, just after winning Olympic all-around gold, that she left her original gym, Excalibur, for Chow’s due to racist bullying. 

So maybe it’s not just her being dramatic? When she went to WOGA, I think there was some skepticism given Liukin’s reputation over the last few years.  I wondered if Douglas, like Konnor McClain (another very talented Black gymnast who had long been the best performer or lone elite in her previous gyms and who has also been dogged by the “gym-hopper” label) before her, chose WOGA because she knew she would be one of a large training group of elites. 

And I wonder if Douglas, like McClain before her, also left WOGA for reasons unrelated to personal “drama” but because she simply was not getting what she needed there. McClain was critical of WOGA on her social media following her departure for Pacific Reign; she later left elite to begin her NCAA career at LSU but is reportedly going to compete elite this summer.

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Leaving a gym because it doesn’t suit you, for any reason (whether that’s racism or whether that’s not vibing with a coach or a style) is OK. I wish it could be normalized in gymnastics, because it can be a sign of a gymnast’s agency in a sport that has famously compromised athlete agency for many years. 

I hope Gabby Douglas is happy, healthy, and getting what she needs from gymnastics right now. 

Where is Gabby Douglas training now?
Gabby Doublas provided us with this Instagram Story this week, explaining that she’s over COVID and back training — but where? (Photo credit: @gabbycvdouglas on Instagram via @scottbregman on X)

Other gym news

The Balance Beam Situation has last week’s rankings and NQS data, this week’s schedule and links, an advance look at what the postseason might look like and, of course, the GIFs.

College Gym News has last week’s roundup, this week’s preview, a judge’s analysis of February’s perfect 10s, a look at Jade Carey’s Olympics prep and, of course, the leotards.  

Oh yeah, and a little article by yours truly about gymnastics team managers and their many roles. 

The Gymternet has the Winter Cup results

USA Today named Aly Raisman one of its Women of the Year. It’s a great interview. Raisman is calling this week’s Michigan-Oklahoma meet on ESPN with John Roethlisberger. 

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UCLA’s Sara Ulias had ACL surgery. 

Nya Reed gave an interview to the Olympic Channel this week. She talks about her year away from gymnastics and her decision to transfer from Florida to UCLA for her fifth and final year. 

Five at The IX is on a break this week as your newsletter writer is traveling. We’ll be back with another interview next week. 

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Written by Lela Moore