Lowdown on McKayla Maroney
Gymnast McKayla Maroney spins through her life as quickly as she completes her legendary vaults. On the Sunday before U.S. nationals (Aug. 15-18 in Hartford, Conn.), she was in the gym for a lengthy solo practice session then sprinted to the mall to find a dress for the induction of the Fierce Five -- the 2012 Olympic gold-medal-winning team -- into the Gymnastics Hall of Fame, an event happening during nationals.
The good news is the 17-year-old from Aliso Viejo, Calif., found a dress ("Black and long and simple," she said) and is fired up to compete after suffering through a broken foot during the Olympics and a broken leg in September.
"My coach told me today I'm in good shape," she said, clearly excited. "I haven't heard him say that in forever."
How did she get back to great shape? A lot of work and some great perspective.
"I know I'm going to be very nervous before competing and get the feeling that I'd rather be in bed than about to go on a huge stage," she said. "But I remind myself it's a huge privilege to do what I get to do. It truly is."
Here are a few of her other training secrets:
Broke, but not broken
"Oh man, coming back from my broken tibia was quite a process. I got the screws taken out three days before my birthday, and I got an infection. Although my physical therapy was focused on my leg and toe, everything in my body became stronger through it."
"Never. Never. Never. Until I got hurt. Before the break, all I did was gymnastics. As I healed, I had to cross-train. I ran on a treadmill to get back the flow of my runs; my rhythm was way off. I also rode the bike because doing so put less pressure on my joints. I also did gymnastic-centric moves like jumping on a mat to work on my balance and focused on my flexibility."
"Falling out of shape while I healed was a really weird situation. I was just used to being in shape, and getting out of it was really difficult for me. But I had perspective from competing at the Olympics. After that, everything seems small and conquerable. Today, I feel stronger than I did last year at this time. I'm a new, improved version of myself."
McKayla is not impressed
"I wasn't expecting two seconds of me on the medal stand to go viral after the Olympics. I came back to my room after the medal ceremony, and my dad said this picture of me doing a face I don't even remember making is blowing up. I make that face all the time. My teammates don't even notice it because I do it so often when I am not impressed. If you tell me my flight is delayed, I'll unconsciously make that face."
Neither is President Obama
"When I met President Obama at the White House, he asked to make the face with me. 'When you're the president, you're always unimpressed with something,' he joked. He totally knew how to make it; I didn't have to instruct him."
Hot + Cold
"Before competition, I always take an ice bath to make my body feel more refreshed. Then I always have coffee with a little cream and sugar. It's a superstitious thing. I'll also listen to music. The song choice depends on whether I need to get pumped up or calm down. Lately I've been loving Selena Gomez's new album, 'Stars Dance,' and the song 'Birthday,' which is really fun and poppy."
Something to prove
"At nationals, I'm going to compete in floor and vault. I want to go in confident and enjoy myself. I worked so hard to come back. I'm really proud that I'm back, and I want to prove that I'm ready for worlds, which is in October. My goal is to give it my all and see what happens."