The Olympic champions showed more grit than grace at this weekend’s U.S. women’s national championships, fighting off some shaky moments while re-establishing themselves among America’s elite.
Raisman, a three-time medalist at the 2012 Olympics, finished third behind winner Simone Biles and Maggie Nichols. Douglas, the all-around champion in London three years ago, was fifth.
“I’ve got to work on coming out and being more confident and not letting stupid mistakes, like wobbles, knock me out of the competition,” Douglas said. “Overall, I’ll take it. But I’ll learn from the mistakes. I’ll take this meet as a stepping stone.”
For now, that will have to suffice.
Nobody expected Douglas or Raisman to be perfect after taking prolonged breaks following their triumphs at the O2 Arena. There is plenty of work ahead as they try to land a spot on the world championships team this fall.
Raisman shocked everyone Thursday night when the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist on beam lost her balance and hopped off. In Saturday’s vault, she took another deduction for a big step on her landing.
Douglas had similar issues. A few minutes after Raisman’s miscue on vault, Douglas spent most of her beam trying to survive bobble after bobble. A small hop on the landing didn’t help, either, and the disgusted Douglas settled for a score of 14.2, ending any remote chance of challenging Biles.
But in a sport where youngsters tend to rule, the 19-year-old Douglas and 21-year-old Raisman used their experience, guile and perseverance to come back.
Douglas rebounded from the poor beam performance with a confident, energized floor routine that earned a 14.8. She closed the weekend with a 15.5 in the vault as she slowly works to regain the form that sent her to the top of the Olympic podium.
Raisman followed a similar script. She used a solid routine on the uneven bars to earn a 14.1 and finished the night with a 14.95 on her modified beam routine in her third meet since returning to competition in March.
“I think the fall (on Thursday) kind of woke me up a bit,” Raisman said. “I realized that you have to be aggressive out there. If you let your legs shake and wobble, you’ll fall.”
Douglas and Raisman seem to be back on their feet.
With two months left to train before the world championships in Scotland and nearly a year before the Rio Olympics, where Douglas is hoping to become the first woman to repeat as all-around champ in nearly 50 years, both Olympians have time to get things right.
Both insist they are probably ahead of where they were at this point four years ago when Douglas struggled at nationals.
Raisman, meanwhile, believes she’s stronger and in better shape, as she continues to build momentum and confidence.
“I had a 15.7 on the beam in a training camp and a 14.9 (Saturday), which isn’t even close,” Raisman said. “Hopefully in the next couple of months I can get up to that.”
But with everyone chasing Biles, the real question is whether anyone — including the 2012 Olympic fan favorites — can catch up.
While Raisman and Douglas used this weekend as a gauge of where they are against the world’s best gymnast, they believe they’ll be closer to their vintage selves when they face the next big sparring session in October.
“I’m going to up my difficulty and be more precise and clean,” Douglas said. “I have a plan.”