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Gabby Douglas: ‘I aim to do the impossible’

espnW: ‘It all has to come from your heart, and you really have to love the sport’

Gabby Douglas won the Olympic all-around title in 2012 as a 16-year-old, then took a two-year break from the sport after London to pursue endorsements and other opportunities. Now she’s back — with a reality TV show and a Barbie doll in her likeness — and she’s hoping for a chance to defend her all-around title at the Rio Olympics.

But it won’t be easy. U.S. teammate Simone Biles is the hands-down favorite for all-around goldafter winning the last three straight world all-around titles, and Douglas’ path to the Olympic teamwas a tricky one, with inconsistent performances at U.S. nationals and Olympic trials. She’ll have to make the U.S. team lineup on all four events in the qualifications on Sunday in order to have a chance to qualify into the all-around, and that’s not a given.

Douglas has never been afraid to voice her biggest dreams, though, and just getting to Rio has been one of them. She talked to us about her comeback, her goals for the Olympics and how she handles the enormous pressure of the spotlight.

I’m a different gymnast than I was in 2012. Maturing over the years and the competitive experience I’ve had is going to help me in Rio. I know the process and what the journey is like. I’m just more confident, more bold and more aggressive going into routines and skills. I’m physically and mentally a little bit stronger this time than last time.

But in some ways, it all kind of feels the same as it did before London. Competing feels the same, and I feel like I know what to expect.

This U.S. team is the team to beat. We are experienced, we know what to do and we are going for gold. Even Laurie Hernandez — who’s the youngest, and 16 like I was last time — she’s confident already. I’m like, “Girl, yes, you’ve got it. This is going to be so easy for you.” I love pumping the younger girls up and filling them with energy because I used to be there when I was younger, looking for advice.

I got advice from everybody in the lead-up to 2012: my siblings, my moms, my coaches, my friends, other gymnasts. Alicia Sacramone and Dominique Dawes helped me along the way too. Older gymnasts would tell me to go out there and enjoy the moment. I was so bouncy, and I’d always go out of bounds, so they told me to calm down, take it one step at a time and don’t let the pressure get to you. And, to have fun! Easier said than done.

Read more at espnW.

Kelley Evans is a digital producer at Andscape. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic Southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.