McKayla Maroney: ‘I’m not competing anymore’

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McKayla Maroney‘s first thought when she fell in the 2012 Olympic vault final was that she must go to the next Olympics to grab gold in her trademark event.

But Maroney won’t compete in Rio in August, announcing she’s moving on following a series of health problems that began before the London Games.

“I don’t want anybody to ever think that McKayla is retiring. I don’t even want people to use that word,” Maroney said in a GymCastic podcast interview from October that was published Wednesday. “The only difference is I’m not competing anymore.”

Her agent confirmed the news Wednesday.

Maroney won Olympic team gold and vault silver at the London Olympics. Her injuries had already started piling up, with a concussion sustained in a floor exercise fall on June 10, 2012, and a broken right big toe and a fractured shin.

Maroney said the toe injury was so serious that it was technically a broken foot and that she was told at her post-Olympic surgery, “You probably will never wear heels again, let alone do gymnastics.”

Before that surgery, Maroney competed on a post-Olympic tour with her teammates. On the second stop of that tour, Maroney fractured her left tibia on an uneven bars dismount.

“I thought that somebody in the crowd shot me in the leg,” Maroney said in a 2014 Inside Gymnastics video interview. “When your tibia fractures, it’s the loudest bone that breaks in the body. So I heard a gunshot, and it wasn’t a gunshot. It was my leg snapping, my tibia snapping. It didn’t even hurt.”

Maroney said she lost all of her leg muscle and her gymnastics skills in the six months off after the leg and toe surgeries. Yet she returned to the sport and repeated as World champion (over Simone Biles) on vault on Oct. 5, 2013, which ended up being her last competitive routine.

Maroney said she had knee problems at those World Championships and then underwent knee surgery on March 6, 2014. She said she also suffered from burnout and depression. She returned to training in 2015, but this time she didn’t come all the way back.

“You have to be so passionate and so in love with gymnastics to be able to get to the Olympics,” Maroney said in October. “When you start losing even just an ounce of that, I was just like, I’m not going to make it.”

Maroney said she ended her bid to return to the Olympics last summer.

“I just got really unhealthy again,” she said. “One day, I was just sitting outside and was like, why am I doing this?”

Maroney, who first enrolled in gymnastics classes as a toddler, remains one of the most recognizable London Olympians, first for her picture-perfect vault in the team final.

“It was just, like, godly,” Maroney said in 2014. “Like I really think that there was angels or something like that.”

VIDEO: Maroney’s near-perfect team final vault

Five days later, Maroney gained even more fame after her shocking fall in the Olympic vault final. She entered as a heavy favorite and the reigning World champion, but landed on her rear on her second of two vaults, which she said she had never fallen on. Maroney received silver behind Romania’s Sandra Izbasa.

“My first thought was, well, I guess I’m going to the next Olympics,” Maroney said in 2014. “And that made me mad.”

Minutes later, she reached Internet meme status for her “not impressed” facial expression on the podium.

“I remember doing the face for literally two seconds,” Maroney said. “Like, if you watch the video, it’s two seconds. And I remember thinking, did I just make a face? Because it’s natural. I do it all the time. I have pictures of me when I’m little doing it. I have it on my Mac computer when I’m like 13.”

VIDEO: Maroney earns vault silver at London 2012, does not-impressed face

She returned to her room in the Olympic Village that night and saw a text message from her dad.

“Back in the United States, people are talking about the face you made after vault,” she said her dad told her.

Maroney searched the Internet and found Photoshopped images of her looking not impressed next to NASA’s Mars rover, rainbows and Mozart.

She didn’t mind the meme so much as the fall.

“I was sad. I was upset. And I was not impressed,” Maroney said.

She reportedly broke down in the mixed zone speaking with reporters after the competition, her eye makeup running down her face.

“I couldn’t sleep for five days after,” she later said. “The fall just kept repeating in my head.

“If you ask me if I could go back and win a gold, I would say, no thank you. I love my silver medal, and I love what’s happened, and it’s made me a stronger person.”

“There’s definitely moments in your life that changed it, and that was definitely No. 1.”

Maroney is ineligible for NCAA gymnastics because she turned professional before the London Olympics. She said in October that she was pursuing a music career singing and playing instruments, which her agent confirmed Wednesday, and hoped to cheer on the U.S. at the Rio Olympics, possibly in person.

Three members of the five-woman 2012 U.S. Olympic champion have retired from international gymnastics.

Wieber, the 2011 World all-around champion, never returned to competition after the London Games. She attends UCLA, where she is a team manager but unable to compete because she turned professional before the Olympics.

Kyla Ross, the youngest U.S. Olympic gymnast since 1996, announced her international retirement Monday but will still compete in collegiate gymnastics at UCLA. She made the 2013 and 2014 World Championships all-around podiums but struggled last season, finishing 10th in the all-around at the P&G Championships in August.

Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas and Olympic floor exercise champion Aly Raisman returned to competition in 2015, were key members of the World Championships team in October and appear likely to make the five-woman U.S. team for Rio this summer.

The last female gymnasts to make back-to-back U.S. Olympic teams were Dominique Dawes and Amy Chow in 1996 and 2000.

“My end goal is for people to look at me, and when they say, ‘Do you know a gymnast?’ and for them to just be like, ‘Oh yeah, McKayla Maroney,'” Maroney said in 2014. “Just to not be forgotten.”

VIDEO: Maroney throws acrobatic ceremonial first pitch

Yuzuru Hanyu, Nathan Chen trail at world championships

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Nathan Chen fell in competition for the first time since December. Yuzuru Hanyu messed up a jumping combination. Neither of the world championships favorites is in the top four after the short program in Helsinki on Thursday.

Instead, two-time defending world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain catapulted to a comfortable lead with a personal-best short program. Fernandez landed his jumps clean, with two quads, for 109.05 points.

Japan’s Shoma Uno is second with 104.86, followed by Canada’s Patrick Chan at 102.13 and China’s Jin Boyang at 98.64.

Fifth-place Hanyu put his knee down on the opening jump of his planned quadruple Salchow-triple toe loop combination and then doubled the toe loop. He ended up with 98.39 points, more than 12 points off his world record.

Chen is sixth after falling on a triple Axel and totaling 97.33 points, hurting his hopes to become the youngest men’s world champion.

The free skate is Saturday morning, with coverage on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Chen last fell in the Grand Prix Final short program in December. He then outscored the field, including Uno, Fernandez, Hanyu, in the Grand Prix Final free skate to jump from fifth to second.

Chen then won the U.S. Championships in record fashion and beat Hanyu and Uno at the Four Continents Championships in February, landing a record five quads in the free skate at both events. He has landed 20 straight quads in competition.

Chen has indicated he may attempt six quads in the worlds free skate on Saturday. He may need them to challenge for gold.

The last U.S. man to earn a world championships medal was Evan Lysacek, who took gold in 2009.

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VIDEO: Russian pairs skater slices leg on partner’s skate

Men’s Short Program
1. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 109.05
2. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 104.86
3. Patrick Chan (CAN) — 102.13
4. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 98.64
5. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 98.39
6. Nathan Chen (USA) — 97.33

8. Jason Brown (USA) — 93.10

U.S. women’s hockey agreement could have far-reaching impact

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Cammi Granato‘s biggest victory in hockey came 12 years after she retired.

When USA Hockey and the women’s national team agreed to a contract Tuesday night that ended a wage dispute, Granato couldn’t put her happiness into words.

The Hockey Hall of Famer and her teammates staged a similar fight in 2000 without success, and she hopes the current team’s progress paves the way for the future of women’s hockey and even other sports.

“It’s bigger than any victory that we’ve had in USA Hockey,” said Granato, who won the gold medal in 1998 with the U.S. at the first Olympics with women’s hockey. “I just think it’s such a positive, positive day for women’s hockey, women’s sports and women in general.”

Granato and lawmakers, lawyers and experts see the U.S. national team’s agreement as a precedent-setter for other hockey teams around the world and other men’s and women’s athletes in this country.

As the U.S. women’s soccer team continues to work out a labor contract, the women’s hockey team showed how it could leverage solidarity and timing into a multiyear agreement that satisfied all parties involved and pushed gender quality in sports forward.

“I’m hoping it will create a wave across the country of more equity in pay,” said Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, one of 20 senators to write to USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean encouraging him to end the dispute.

“We know that it’s not going to be exactly the same. We know the viewership numbers for some of these sports, but at least you have to try. When you try and you give them more funding, it’s kind of a chicken-and-egg problem.

“Once they’re able to actually support themselves and it’s more lucrative, you get more women going into the sport, then you have better sports and you have more people watching them.”

In that way, women’s hockey has taken the first step toward following women’s soccer, almost 20 years after the World Cup-winning team led by Mia Hamm, Brianna Scurry, Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain inspired Granato and her teammates to challenge USA Hockey.

Members of the U.S. women’s hockey team will now make $3,000-$4,000 a month with the ability to earn around $71,000 annually and up to $129,000 in Olympic years when combined with contributions from the U.S. Olympic Committee.

That’s still less than what women’s soccer players bring in, but now players won’t have to work second or third jobs – and half did – or retire to start a family because the new contract guarantees that protection along with insurance and other improvements.

Lawyer John Langel of Ballard Spahr, who represented soccer players from 1998-2014 and the hockey players in this negotiation, said hockey “shouldn’t necessarily take the same long journey” depending on how many strides are made in professional leagues, programming, marketing and sponsorships.

One immediate impact is lengthening careers, which has already shown to be the case in soccer and could transfer over to other sports.

Granato retired in 2005, but still felt as if she had “more to give” and finds it incredible that players in the current generation won’t have to hang up their skates as early as she did.

With a deal in place, the U.S. opens its world championship gold-medal defense Friday against Canada. Players had threatened to boycott the tournament over the wage dispute, which Pepper Hamilton labor and employment lawyer Matt DelDuca considers the most interesting aspect of the case.

“It shows other groups a path for trying to negotiate and use their leverage to negotiate a deal that’s favorable to them or that they’re satisfied with,” DelDuca said.

“It does really require solidarity though. You really need to have everybody together to make it work, and in this case they really seemed to have had that. In all those ways it is a benchmark for other groups to use.”

USA Hockey said all along its priority was to get a deal done, but did reach out to replacement players. Very few accepted the invite as star forward Hilary Knight and other top players espoused the solidarity of the entire player pool.

“There wasn’t any poaching of other players,” said North Dakota senator Heidi Heitkamp, another senator who wrote to Ogrean.

“They were all united in this common goal, and I think that competitive, athletic spirit really showed up in terms of fighting for your rights. I thought they deserved the support of people here who say that they support equality in pay and equality in opportunity.”

Susan Kahn, a University of Buffalo professor of women’s history, said the Senate’s involvement made it clear this wasn’t just a financial dispute, but “a political issue around equal treatment and fighting gender bias in amateur sport.”

Within hockey, the agreement allows for future expansion in the professional and amateur ranks.

“It sets the stage for a major growth in the game,” Granato said. “I think there’s a potential here to take this team and have it be followed similar to other women’s sports and where they’re at right now.”

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