If there is to be a gymnastics encore for Gabrielle Douglas, it won’t come in 2013.
The Iowa-based Olympic champion, named Associated Press female athlete of the year Friday, won’t return to the gym next year, her coach, Liang Chow, confirmed to The Des Moines Register.
“She deserves to enjoy for herself all the sunshine stuff,” Chow said. “When it’s time for her to come back, she will know it.
“She can take as many years as she wants. This is America.”
Douglas could still make an attempt to defend her Olympic all-around gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. But her days since winning in London have been consumed by public appearances, writing a book and a 40-city gymnastics tour.
Douglas, who turns 17 on New Year’s Eve, will spend the early part of next year on the Teen Choice Live Tour. Chow does not expect her to return to training in time for a run at the 2013 national and world championships.
“She deserves all of the possibilities. She worked hard for it,” said Chow, who communicates with Douglas via email.
“I don’t have any plans for Gabby at this point. I can’t make any plans till she’s physically back in the gym. I need to see where she’s at. I’m not a big dreamer. I have to see the reality.”
It has become increasingly rare for U.S. gymnasts to compete in back-to-back Olympics. But Douglas has always said she’s eager to try, and her youth, lithe body and lack of any significant injuries make her a good bet to defy the odds if she chooses. Chow has said he thinks her best years are still in front of her.
In the 2012 Olympic cycle, Shawn Johnson of West Des Moines attempted a comeback only to be undermined by a 2010 knee injury. Her 2008 teammate, Nastia Liukin, tried to regain her old form, but three years away from competition proved too much to overcome.
Martha Karolyi, national team coordinator, said both gymnasts gave it a valiant effort but ultimately waited too long.
“Gymnastics at this level cannot be done halfway or not even 90 percent dedication,” Karolyi said. “So once (Douglas) would decide to return to gymnastics, she needs to say, ‘I will train just like I did when I became Olympic champion.’ There will be the same expectations for her as any other of our athletes.”