By Liana B. Baker
SAN JOSE, California (Reuters) – Gabby Douglas will have about a month to rebuild her shaken confidence ahead of the Rio Summer Games after she was gifted a spot on the U.S. team following a disappointing display at the U.S. team trials.
With five women landing berths on the Rio bound squad Douglas was fortunate to be among them after an uninspiring seventh place finish at the two-day U.S. trials that ended Sunday.
Despite her struggles women’s national team program director Martha Karolyi remained convinced Douglas could still be a key contributor to the U.S. effort.
“I’m excited to talk to her (Karolyi) and pour my heart out,” offered an emotional Douglas. “I just want to say, thank you for believing in me even though I didn’t do as well as I could have and there is so much more that I can do.
“Thank you for not giving up on me and I’m just going to really prove to her and everyone that I deserve to be on this team.”
Douglas, who fell off the beam on both days of the trials, finished seventh overall scoring behind some team mates who were only chosen as alternates, including Ragan Smith (fifth) and MyKayla Skinner (fourth).
Douglas had initially been considered to have the inside track on a Rio berth and a chance to defend her all-around title.
While Douglas is on her way to Rio, there is no decision yet on whether she will be selected to compete in the all-around but if chosen, the 20-year-old said she would be ready.
“I can improve a lot more and I’m so excited to go into the gym and work really hard. I’m going to put my all in,” said the London gold medalist following trials on Sunday.
“I’m willing to put everything into it and clean up those details and really just push myself.”
Uncertainty hit early on in San Jose, with questions about her decision to make a coaching switch at competition on Friday.
She ended the first day of trials tied for seventh and came out stronger on Sunday posting a slightly better all-around-score.
But after wrapping up the trials with a rank of 11th on the beam, and sixth on the floor and vault, many were left wondering if Douglas’ Olympic comeback would be out of reach.
“It was kind of long. It’s just nerve wracking,” Douglas said, about waiting for Karolyi to deliver the news. “You’re like, have I made it, who are they are going to choose? And am I on the team?”
In the end, when she found out she would joining world champion Simone Biles, breakout star Laurie Hernandez, uneven bars expert, Madison Kocian, and London “fierce five” team mate Aly Raisman.
“It’s just really emotional. I never thought I would go again,” said Douglas. “It’s like oh my gosh, I’m still processing it.”
(Reporting by Liana B. Baker. Editing by Steve Keating.)