In a super special ridiculously amazing special interview with Gymcastic, two-time 2012 Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney goes majorly in-depth about her career, especially related to the Olympics and everything that happened after. Watch it in full below. It’s seriously the Connie Chung of gymnastics interviews, and is hilarious and heartbreaking all at once.
She goes into detail in the video about the stress and pressure of the month-long camp with no days off leading up to the Games, and she doesn’t sugarcoat her criticism of her coaches and how their expectations and demands didn’t always have her best interests at heart.
“I love my coaches [Artur Akopyan and Galina Marinova of All-Olympia]. They are the best technical coaches in the whole entire world,” she says, almost breaking into tears. “But mentally they just messed me up so badly.” She still has a great deal of respect for them, justifies their tough style as the only thing they knew with their own difficult upbringing in the sport coming up through the Soviet system, and wishes they too had better experiences as athletes. But at the same time, she acknowledges that there is a problem with their system, summing up her feelings quite succinctly. “I don’t feel good talking about them in this way, but it is what happened. And there’s a better way of doing things.”
The video also serves as Maroney’s retirement announcement, though she doesn’t want you to use the R word. She’s going to stay in the sport in whatever way she can, but after several years of dealing with injuries, multiple surgeries, an autoimmune disease, and serious issues with anxiety and depression, it is unfortunately both physically and mentally impossible for her to continue competing in the sport.
“You have to be so passionate and so in love with gymnastics to get to the Olympics and when you lose even an ounce of that, you’re not going to make it,” she tells Gymcastic’s Jessica O’Beirne in the video. At one point when she was especially burned out after months of nonstop training, so tired she slept for three days, she took a moment to imagine what life would be like if she was done and felt a wave of peace come over her. Though there was so much more she wanted to do within the sport – compete a triple-twisting Yurchenko, win Olympic gold on vault, make a bigger impact on floor – she is finally ready to move on. And after a lifetime of trusting coaches more than she ever trusted herself, no one else is making this decision for her. It’s all McKayla.
“Sometimes it’s the thing that you need to let go that’s holding you back from being healthy,” says Maroney, who now feels like a totally new person both physically and mentally. “It’s like the most painful thing ever, but I finally get to tell my fans with all my heart that I’m going on a new journey. If nothing else, I just hope this interview inspires people to follow their dream.”
Her own dreams no longer about gymnastics, Maroney is now focused on making music – she’s currently studying several different instruments and music theory in addition to writing her own lyrics – as well as beginning her own leotard line, one that focuses on both style and comfort (and absolutely no scrunchies).
Maroney is the third member of the Olympic gold medal-winning Fierce Five to announce her retirement from competition, after Jordyn Wieber wrote a piece in The Players’ Tribune almost a year ago exactly and Kyla Ross made her decision public via social media this past Monday. Their 2012 teammates Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas are both continuing on this season with the hopes of making it to their second Olympic Games in Rio this summer.
During the course of her career, Maroney won Olympic team gold and vault silver, was a two-time world and national champion on vault, won a world gold medal in the team competition in 2011, was the national floor champion in 2013, and won the silver medal in the all-around at nationals in 2011 in addition to winning multiple international gold medals at competitions like the Pan American Championships and the City of Jesolo Trophy. We wish her the best of luck as she continues to find herself outside of gymnastics, and can’t wait to see what her future has in store.
Article by Lauren Hopkins