Maggie Nichols
Getty Images

Gymnast Maggie Nichols has swag down to a T

Leave a comment

First, there was the Shawon-O-Meter. Now, there’s the Swag-O-Meter.

U.S. gymnast Maggie Nichols is known by her nickname, Swaggie Maggie. Her Twitter handle is @magsgotswag12. And before she competes, her father texts her, “Swag now!”

Nichols embraces the attitude.

“It fits my personality,” she said.

Nichols emerged from injuries and through an incredibly deep U.S. program to become a favorite to make the five-woman Olympic team named in July.

Nichols began doing gymnastics at age 3 and, at age 6, remembers watching Carly Patterson win the Athens 2004 Olympic all-around. During commercial breaks, she beelined to her parents’ suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul backyard and tumbled around.

By 16, Nichols finished third in the all-around at the 2014 P&G Championships and looked destined for her first Worlds team until dislocating her left kneecap the following week.

One year later, U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi praised Nichols’ recovery ahead of the 2015 P&G Championships. That’s where the Swag boom occurred.

“Maggie Nichols, the biggest improvement I can see in this quadrennium is her,” Karolyi said then. “At the beginning, she was just average, new elite, two and a half, three years ago. … Of this moment, she is showing definitely world-class gymnastics.”

Nichols proved it, outscoring Olympic champions Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman en route to the second step on the all-around podium, just below best friend Simone Biles.

Also at that meet, Associated Press gymnastics writer Will Graves coined a hashtag that inspired Nichols’ father to get creative two months later.

“I think he started it,” Nichols said of Graves. “Now it’s just kind of carried on.”

At her first Worlds in October, Nichols was the only U.S. woman chosen by Karolyi to compete on all four events in the team final. Not Biles. Not Douglas. Not Raisman. Just Swaggie Maggie.

Nichols was ineligible for the individual all-around final as she sat out uneven bars in qualifying, but her all-around score from the team final would have earned bronze in the individual competition.

“I proved my consistency and that I can hit under pressure,” said Nichols, who doesn’t plan to continue elite-level gymnastics after the Olympics, already signing with the University of Oklahoma.

Nichols’ dad came home from Worlds in Glasgow, Scotland, with an idea to create a T-shirt. Two, actually. He chose two designs and had 50 total shirts delivered in February (images below courtesy of John Nichols).

“It says Swag-O-Meter on it and has this huge [arrow] on it, breaking [the meter],” Nichols said of one design, smiling. “He’s a goof.”

There are other Swag Meter shirts out there. Even Team Maggie shirts worn by other girls at her Twin City Sisters gym and at school.

But these two are special. John surprised Nichols with them before she departed for a national team camp and the AT&T American Cup last month.

“She’s always been Swaggie Maggie,” John said. “She’s proud of that.”

Her fans are, too. There were posters held up at Bankers Life Fieldhouse at the P&G Championships in August that read, “Just Swag It” and “I Love Swaggie Maggie!”

John and Nichols’ mom, Gina, considered wearing their shirts at the American Cup in Newark, N.J., where Nichols finished second to Douglas. They opted against it, with it being Nichols’ top-level international all-around debut and the TV cameras focused on the U.S. gymnasts and their families.

Nichols said she would wear the shirts around her home, or in the gym because it would draw smiles. She wouldn’t commit to breaking one out over her leotard while at a competition.

That didn’t surprise her parents.

“I think she’s a little bit more shy,” her mom said. “She’s really humble about what she does.”

MORE: Gabby Douglas’ family Oxygen TV series premiere date set

Maggie Nichols Maggie Nichols Maggie Nichols

Maggie Nichols

Matthew Centrowitz, after ‘rock bottom,’ glad with runner-up at USAs

Leave a comment

Matthew Centrowitz said he hit rock bottom two weeks ago.

“I was ready to do the depressed thing that most people do,” Centrowitz, whose normal dark buzz was topped with faded blonde, said Saturday. “Bleach it like Justin Bieber.”

Back then, Centrowitz did not believe he would be racing this weekend at the USATF Outdoor Championships, part of the TeamUSA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast.

The Olympic 1500m champion was sidelined for weeks due to a series of ailments.

A left adductor strain in April. A May visit to the emergency room with a viral infection similar to his 2014 bout with pericarditis. His heart rate was through the roof. Then, a right adductor tear.

“I was ready to can the season, to be honest with you,” said Centrowitz, who in Rio became the first U.S. Olympic 1500m gold medalist in 108 years. “I was like, no one’s going to see me. I’m done with my year. So I dyed it.”

The next day, people told Centrowitz that, regardless of hair color, he would be racing. At some point, he came to believe them.

So, on about 10 days of training, Centrowitz came to Sacramento to try and earn a place on the three-man world championships team.

Centrowitz did just that Saturday, finishing second to Robby Andrews in the 1500m final.

Third is as good as first,” said Centrowitz, who is going to his fourth straight worlds, seeking to complete his medal collection (bronze in 2011, silver in 2013).

Andrews, in fifth place going into the final lap, surged past Centrowitz on the last straightaway to win in 3:43.29. Centrowitz was second in 3:43.41.

“He’s been banged up, I’m not going to say it’s a true battle,” said Andrews, who was second to Centrowitz at the 2015 USATF Outdoors, 2016 USATF Indoors and 2016 Olympic Trials.

Andrews, who was disqualified in the Rio semifinals, is not yet on the team for worlds in London in August. He must still run the world championships qualification standard of 3:36.00 by July 23.

USATF OUTDOORS: Broadcast Schedule | Full Results

Earlier Saturday, Allyson Felix headlined the qualifiers for Sunday’s 200m semifinals, which do not include Justin Gatlin.

World-record holder Keni Harrison won the 100m hurdles in 12.60 seconds, after shockingly failing to make the Rio Olympic team. Harrison was followed by Olympic silver medalist Nia Ali in 12.68. Also making the world team was 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper.

Harrison had not raced since May 5 after breaking her left hand in a warm-up and undergoing surgery.

“In a few more weeks, my hand will be back to normal,” said Harrison, whose world record from July is 12.20. “I’m not race sharp.”

Olympic bronze medalist Jenny Simpson took the women’s 1500m in 4:06.33. She’s joined on the world team by Olympian Kate Grace and surprise Sara Vaughn, a 31-year-old mother of three daughters.

“It’s a lot of times about squeezing in the training whenever I can do it,” Vaughn, a first-time world team member, told media in Sacramento. “It’s not always the primary focus, so coming out to Sacramento for a week and pretending to be nothing but a professional runner is kind of weird for me. I feel like I’m forgetting something, but I felt extra light on the track. It brings a lot more joy to the sport when I can share it with my three daughters.”

American record holder Shannon Rowbury shockingly missed the world team, fading to eighth.

In the 400m, Fred Kerley and Quanera Hayes each won their first U.S. titles.

Kerley, who didn’t make it out of the Olympic Trials first round, won comfortably in 44.03 seconds. The NCAA champion from Texas A&M now owns the five fastest times in the world this year.

Kerley is joined on the world team by Olympian Gil Roberts (44.22), Wil London III (44.47) and 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt. Merritt has a bye into worlds as the 2016 Diamond League champion, so he didn’t race the 400m in Sacramento.

Kerley and Merritt are medal contenders, though gold will be difficult against South African Wayde van Niekerk, who broke Michael Johnson‘s world record in Rio.

Hayes, who was eighth at the 2016 Olympic Trials, won the women’s 400m in 49.72 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. She’s joined on the world team by Olympian Phyllis Francis and Kendall Ellis.

Three-time Olympian Natasha Hastings finished fourth, just missing the individual 400m world team. She also finished fourth in the Rio 400m.

Hayes, Francis and Ellis join the 2015 World champion Felix on the U.S. team in the 400m in London. They’re looking to unseat Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas.

Olympic champion Michelle Carter was upset in the shot put, finishing third behind Raven Saunders and Dani Bunch. They’re all going to worlds.

Tianna Bartoletta edged Brittney Reese in a battle of Olympic long jump champions, 7.05 meters to 6.98 meters.

Olympic bronze medalist Sam Kendricks became the first American to clear six meters in the pole vault since 2008.

MORE: Gatlin gets one more shot at Bolt after surprise U.S. 100m title

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Allyson Felix leads 200m semifinalists at USAs, minus Justin Gatlin

Leave a comment

Allyson Felix eased into the U.S. 200m semifinals as ninth fastest from the first round Saturday, but she probably won’t contest the 200m at the world championships in August.

Felix, the 2012 Olympic 200m champion, won her heat in 22.95 seconds, letting off the gas for most of the final straightaway in Sacramento, Calif.

Deajah Stevens (22.55), Ariana Washington (22.57) and Rio bronze medalist Tori Bowie (22.69) led the 16 qualifiers into Sunday’s semifinals at the USATF Outdoor Championships, part of the TeamUSA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast.

The final is also Sunday, when the top three qualify for the world championships in London in August.

USATF OUTDOORS: Broadcast Schedule | Full Results

On Friday, Felix finished eighth in the 100m, but she did not plan to race the 100m at worlds even if she made the team in that event.

Felix has a bye into the world 400m as defending champion. The 31-year-old said after Saturday’s race that the 400m will probably be her only individual event at worlds, even if she makes the 200m team, according to USA Track and Field.

Felix missed the 2016 Olympic team in the 200m by .01 at the Olympic Trials, slowed by an ankle injury. She ranks No. 4 in the U.S. in the 200m this year behind Bowie, NCAA champion Kyra Jefferson and Stevens.

Justin Gatlin chose not to start the men’s 200m, about 16 hours after winning the 100m title. Gatlin said after being eliminated in the Olympic 200m semifinals that he intended to focus on the 100m this season.

Likewise, Usain Bolt is not racing the 200m in his farewell season.

In Gatlin’s absence, Isiah Young and U.S. 100m runner-up Christian Coleman posted the fastest 200m first-round times of 20.29 and 20.34 seconds.

Olympian Ameer Webb (20.50), favorite Noah Lyles (20.54), Walter Dix (20.57), Tyson Gay (20.60) and LaShawn Merritt (20.74) also made the semifinals.

MORE: Gatlin gets one more shot at Bolt after surprise U.S. 100m title

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!