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.”
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.”
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.”