Maroney can vault her way to London

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- In the big picture, it was not a great night for McKayla Maroney.

Back on the floor Friday night for the first time since she sustained a concussion in warm-ups at the national championships earlier this month, Maroney missed a bar on her uneven bars routine and fell to the floor. On the next rotation, she fell off the balance beam.

But the big picture doesn't really apply to Maroney.

Kyle Terada/US Presswire

McKayla Maroney was her usual spectacular self on the vault Friday night, which might be enough to make the U.S. team.

She is the best vaulter in the world, the reigning world gold medalist. Her place on the U.S. team -- which will be decided after Sunday's final day of trials competition -- won't be based on her all-around ability. It will be based on her ability to deliver big for the Americans in her best event.

In fact, she might be the only athlete in the field who could conceivably make the Olympic team based on her performance in one event.

"That's my talent and that's what I'm best at, and I know I can get to London with the vault," said the 16-year-old from Long Beach, who is seventh among the 14 competitors after the first night of competition at HP Pavilion.

But Maroney said she doesn't want to be a proverbial one-trick pony, doesn't want to take advantage of what she must realize is a bigger margin for error than most of the other competitors have.

"I want to be known, also, as a gymnast who can go out, if they need me, and do all four events," Maroney said. "I don't use vault as, 'Oh, and I can fall on these two events because I have vault.' I always try to do my best on everything."

Maroney opened the night on her best event, the vault, and immediately posted a 16.100, the highest vault score of the night.

"I knew I had to hit that," Maroney said.

That was followed by her mishaps on the bars and beam, and she finished with a strong floor routine, the same one that resulted in her injury -- a concussion and a broken nose -- two weeks ago in St. Louis.

Maroney said she was dizzy for several days after she fell on her first tumbling pass that day and had to be walked off the floor, causing her to miss the second day of nationals. Her eyes were bruised, her nose swollen and sore, and she was visiting the doctor every day for evaluation.

"I was really looking like a zombie," Maroney said. "It was a rough three or four days."

She was being given mental acuity tests on a computer to measure her memory and ability to perform basic brain functions.

"I was trying so hard," Maroney said. "On the first one I took, I thought I did so well, and I didn't do well at all."

She missed a full week of training in the two weeks between nationals and the trials. She was cleared several days ago by the USA Gymnastics medical staff.

"It was pretty intense," Maroney said. "I was kind of worried about that. If I wasn't able to compete, my whole dream of going to the Olympics was going to be crushed and I didn't even want to think that way.

"That was one of the longest weeks of my life. Each day I felt a little bit better, but it wasn't going as fast as I wanted."

Maroney said her concussion had no effect on her roller-coaster performance in San Jose on Friday night. She said she wants to make up for her mistakes on bars and beam Sunday, the day her fate will be decided by the selection committee.

"It's important to be consistent if you want to be considered an Olympic athlete," Maroney said. "But I'm thankful that I'm even here."

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