Maile O’Keefe, who turned twelve earlier this year and trains at Salcianu Gymnastics, will make her U.S. Championships debut this week at the 2014 P&G Championships in Pittsburgh, Penn.
Known as Mighty Mo, Maile made the huge jump from level 9 to elite gymnastics last year at the age of eleven. At the Developmental Camp at the ranch in June 2013, Maile earned the opportunity to compete in three HOPES meets, beginning with the national elite qualifier and the HOPES session of the American Classic before going on to the U.S. Challenge.
At the elite qualifier, it was decided that Maile had what it took to instead go straight to junior international elite. Though she narrowly missed out on qualifying to the P&G Championships, she earned a spot at the 2013 Secret U.S. Classic where she was the youngest competitor.
This year, Maile earned her elite qualifying score easily after winning the silver medal with a 54.4 at the SCEGA qualifier in San Diego this past March. At the American Classic last month, she had a silver medal-winning beam performance and came 6th in the all-around with a 53.1, earning a spot at this year’s P&G Championships.
She surprised everyone – including herself! – with her finish at the Secret U.S. Classic two weeks ago, placing 6th in the all-around and on beam while earning a silver medal for her incredible floor routine. She is currently the only international elite gymnast from Nevada, and has grown so much in the past year, it’s clear her potential for the future is tremendous. With Tokyo 2020 on her mind, Maile hopes to continue to impress this weekend by hitting all eight routines, though she should have a great shot at earning a spot on the junior national team.
We talked to Maile as she got ready to travel across the country to Pittsburgh to see how she was doing in the days leading up to the biggest competition – so far! – of her life. Here’s what she had to say!
How do you think your experience at Classics went? Did you meet your goals?
I went into the American Classic with the goal to qualify to P&G Championships. I met that goal and placed well. Training between the American Classic and Secret U.S. Classic, I really concentrated on cleaning up my routines. Last year was my first year on a podium and I had just gone from level 9 to elite so I didn’t place as well as I had hoped. This year I really wanted to place higher. I met my goals and did what I set out to do.
What was the highlight of your meet?
I was really happy with my floor! Placing second really surprised me.
Do you have any fun stories from the competition?
Actually, I have a couple of stories. A couple of weeks ago, my coaches’ – Tammy and Sorin – dog had puppies. They told me that if I placed well I could have one. Since I placed well, I get to have one! While at the top of the John Hancock Tower in Chicago I came up with a name. I am going to name her Tokyomo. This is a combination of where the 2020 Olympics are going to be held and my nickname. Also, after the senior session my friend, Jordan Chiles, and I were signing autographs. She couldn’t find a place to sign so she told me that she was going to sign on my back!
Did you get to do anything fun in Chicago while you were nearby?
Yes, I went to the John Hancock tower with my coaches and teammate, Trista Goodman. Trista and I did the tilt. It took me a couple minutes to actually look down!
What was the number one thing you’ve been working to improve since the meet?
I have been really working on perfecting my skills. I have been working on getting rid of the deductions.
What are your biggest goals for Championships?
I want to go eight for eight between day one and day two. Having fun and taking in the experience of the P&G Championships, as this is the first time that I have gone.
How about your biggest goal for your gymnastics career?
To make it to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo!
What is your favorite event to compete?
Right now my favorite events are vault and floor.
Is there a dream skill you’d like to someday be able to do?
A side aerial, layout stepout, layout stepout on beam.
Is there a gymnast you find particularly inspirational? Why?
Alicia Sacramone. I love her no-quit attitude.
What is one thing your coach always has to remind you in training or at meets?
At meets, to stay warm on the side and to compete like I train.
Article by Lauren Hopkins