LONDON (Reuters) - When it comes to discussing her love life, Gabby Douglas is ready to bare all.
“I have one relationship: His name is Gym ... Nastics,” the Olympic champion declares during a scene in her reality television show ‘Douglas Family Gold’.
For the 20-year-old American, gymnastics has been the one true love that she simply cannot walk away from.
When she fails to strike gold in a competition, it causes her a lot of heartache.
When she trains for hours in a gym, it causes her a great deal of pain.
When training sessions and competitions clash with her social life, it isolates her from her friends.
Despite all the pitfalls of being an elite gymnast, and her scrappy performance during the U.S. Olympic trials when she finished seventh, Douglas will be in Rio next month as she bids to become the first woman since Czech Vera Caslavska in 1968 to win back-to-back Olympic all around titles.
“Oh my gosh, that’s so crazy that no-one’s gotten back-to-back golds for so long,” Douglas, who is bidding to become only the third woman to do the Olympic all around double, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“I would definitely love to add my name (to that exclusive club), you know going back and defending my title. So yeah, I am very confident.”
In a grueling sport that leaves champions on the scrap heap at a young age, Douglas has bucked the trend as she discovered she “missed gymnastics too much” while taking a two-year hiatus following the London Games.
“(Being away from gymnastics) was bittersweet for me because my body and my mind needed the break but at the same time I wanted to get back out there and I want to start doing it again,” said Douglas, who is the first American to win a team and all around gold at the same Olympics.
“I was so excited to be back out there competing on one of the biggest stages and doing very well after taking two years off. It was great. When I was competing, I was thinking: ‘Yes I’m back, it’s official’.”
During her time away from the sport, Douglas watched her fellow American Simone Biles burst on to the world stage and wipe out the opposition.
That left many Douglas supporters wondering whether it was wise for her to come back into top-flight gymnastics and risk tarnishing her record of winning at least one gold medal at every major global meeting she had entered.
They need not have worried as Douglas — whose surname is an anagram of ‘USA gold’ — not only helped her country to win team title at the 2015 world championships, she also kept Biles on her toes in the all around before settling for silver.
That performance proved her gamble had paid off.
“I more excited this time because I’ve been there so I know what to expect. I’m used to the pressure. I know the process and the procedure so I’m finding it more fun this time round,” said Douglas, the first African-American gymnast to win the Olympic all around title.
Did she not think she had more to lose than gain by going to a second Olympics?
“Before London I didn’t get to do some of the competitions that I wanted to do,” explained Douglas, who grew up idolizing Dominique Dawes, a member of the triumphant 1996 Magnificent Seven team.
“I wanted to go to another world championships, to win the American Cup. So I’m checking off my list the competitions I always dreamed about going to.
“I feel like it’s a big gain because in the process I am learning more skills and difficult gymnastics.
“In gymnastics everything is mental so you have to fully enjoy it. I love what I do.”
Editing by Clare Fallon