Maggie Nichols
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Gymnast Maggie Nichols has swag down to a T

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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.”

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Maggie Nichols

Laurie Hernandez eyes return to competition in 2018

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NEW YORK – Laurie Hernandez hardly considers her 14 months away from competitive gymnastics a break.

Since earning Olympic team gold and balance beam silver in Rio, the 17-year-old won “Dancing with the Stars,” authored a book and even enrolled in ballet lessons.

But her most rewarding experience has been speaking at schools. Students have asked her seemingly every question, from when she started taking gymnastics classes (age 5) to whether she climbed trees when she was younger (yes, all the time).

Seeing how many children were inspired by her Rio performance motivated Hernandez as she prepares to return to the sport.

“I didn’t realize at the Olympics how many people were truly watching,” Hernandez said Wednesday night at the annual Women’s Sports Foundation Salute to Women in Sports. “Now I’m excited to get back into the gym.”

Hernandez recently added handstand holds, back tucks and front flips to her conditioning program, in addition to continuing to run and lift weights.

“It’s a little difficult, but it’s fine,” she said. “I’ll push it a little more after the holidays.”

She has her eye on returning to competition in 2018.

“That’s definitely the hope,” Hernandez said. “I’m not going to rush anything, but I would love to compete in 2018.”

Hernandez, who said her next goal in gymnastics is to compete at the world championships for the first time and hopefully the 2020 Olympics, has not yet identified her comeback meet.

She noted that Aly Raisman took more than two years off after the London Olympics.

“I know every athlete is different,” Hernandez said. “But I wouldn’t mind following in her footsteps.”

Simone Biles, who has not competed since winning four gold medals in Rio, recently announced that she plans on returning to full-time training Nov. 1 and competition next summer.

“I look up to her, even though we are teammates,” Hernandez said. “I can’t wait to see her out there, but hopefully I’ll be out there with her soon.”

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MORE: Laurie Hernandez explains wink, nervous Olympic moments in book excerpt

Olympic cycling champion running for Congress

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Olympic cycling gold medalist Marty Nothstein is the latest to announce he’s running for the eastern Pennsylvania congressional seat being vacated by fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Dent.

Dent, a former state senator, is a centrist Republican who has held the seat since 2005. He’s retiring after his term expires next year.

Nothstein, who won sprint silver in 1996 and gold in 2000, is the only American track cyclist to win an Olympic title at a fully attended Games.

Two Republican state representatives, Ryan Mackenzie and Justin Simmons, previously announced they’re running for Dent’s 15th District seat.

Democrat Bill Leiner, a former Lehigh County commissioner, is also running.

Dent’s district includes Allentown and all of Lehigh County, and parts of four surrounding counties.

Republicans in 2011 stretched the district almost 90 miles to the Susquehanna River in central Pennsylvania to make it more Republican.

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