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

Mikaela Shiffrin races for another reindeer

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Mikaela Shiffrin already has three Olympic medals. She can win her third reindeer on Saturday.

Shiffrin headlines the first slalom of the World Cup season in Levi, Finland, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming via NBC Sports Gold’s Snow Pass.

The first run is at 4:15 a.m. ET. The second is at 7.

The traditional (and unconventional) winner’s prize in Finland is a reindeer. Shiffrin captured the Levi slalom in 2013 and 2016, naming her furry friends Rudolph and Sven.

The reindeer stay in Finland while Shiffrin criss-crosses Europe and North America on the World Cup tour.

Shiffrin lost in her trademark discipline in Levi last fall to a new rival, Petra Vlhova of Slovakia.

Motivated, Shiffrin won the next six slaloms before skiing out of the last slalom before the Olympics. Then in PyeongChang, Shiffrin shockingly finished fourth in defense of her Sochi Olympic title (after a giant slalom gold and before a super combined silver).

She bounced back, winning the last two World Cup slaloms of the 2017-18 season.

In the past, Shiffrin voiced a goal of winning every slalom in a season. She won all but three each of the last two years. Levi is the first of 12 World Cup slaloms this season.

Shiffrin must overcome the three women who made the PyeongChang podium ahead of her — Swede Frida Hansdotter, Swiss Wendy Holdener and Austrian Katharina Gallhuber.

She has already shown strong form, taking third in the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, three weeks ago.

Nothing but a third reindeer will suffice in Saturday’s slalom, though.

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Gracie Gold wants to be new skater in comeback event; TV/stream schedule

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When Gracie Gold was in treatment for anxiety, depression and an eating disorder last year, she received a message from two-time Olympian Jeremy Abbott.

“If you ever want to come back to skating, I want to do an exhibition piece for you as a gift,” Abbott, who has taken up choreography in retirement, told his friend. Gold said it was a sweet offer and thanked him.

“At that point I don’t think that she had thought about coming back at all,” Abbott said last week.

Several months later, Gold had thought it over. She contacted Abbott in the spring.

“I’m going to make a go at this. Would you be willing to do my programs?” Abbott recalled Gold telling him. “I was shocked,” Abbott continued, “but also, at the same time, I was not.”

Gold, a two-time U.S. champ who finished fourth at the 2014 Olympics, competes this week for the first time since the January 2017 U.S. Championships. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of Rostelecom Cup from Moscow.

Day Time (ET) Event Network
Friday 6 a.m. Men’s Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
8 a.m. Rhythm Dance NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
10:30 a.m. Pairs’ Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
12 p.m. Women’s Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
Saturday 5:30 a.m. Men’s Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
7:30 a.m. Free Dance NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
9:30 a.m. Pairs’ Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
11:30 a.m. Women’s Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
Sunday 12 p.m. Highlights NBC | STREAM LINK

Gold, who detailed her last two years in a video published a month ago, is refraining from more interviews until after she skates. Abbott choreographed both her short and long programs, making a few trips to her Pennsylvania training base in the last six months. Gold is coached by former French skater Vincent Restencourt.

“She told me that she wanted to be a new skater and a new Gracie,” Abbott said. “She said that she always admired the artistry that I had and that she really wanted to bring something new to her skating.”

Abbott said her program music choices — “I Put a Spell On You” and “She Used to Be Mine,” the latter from the Broadway musical “Waitress” — reflect the new Gold. The former is “a little more mature and a little more sexy and playful than anything she’s done in the past.” The latter speaks to how she got from there to here in the last two years.

“At one point, she was on top of the world and had everything at her feet,” Abbott said. (Gold has said she spiraled psychologically after squandering a short-program lead at the 2016 Worlds and missing the podium altogether.) “Then she had some really big struggles and had to really step back from the life that she knew. Now she’s having to rebuild herself. It’s kind of looking back at who she was and who she used to be and now where she is and who she wants to become.”

Gold made it clear to Abbott whom she wanted to become.

“She was like, ‘I always was viewed as a jumper and not a skater. I always wanted to be an artist, but everyone told me stick to what you’re best at,'” Abbott said. “Working with her, she is an artist. She is sensitive. She understands the music. She gets it.”

Abbott visited Gold once this fall for choreography touch-ups and will not be in Moscow with her and Restencourt. Rather, he will be performing in 1984 Olympic champion Scott Hamilton‘s show in Nashville on Sunday.

Abbott doesn’t know how Gold is handling the comeback nerves or what to expect of her jumps.

“This isn’t like a big massive coming-out party for her,” he said. “This is really just the first step to get her feet back under her, get her going again because the plan isn’t about this competition. The plan isn’t about this season. The plan is really about building for her future and the next four years.”

The field is led by Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, fellow Russian Sofia Samodurova and Japanese Yuna Shiraiwa, all 16-year-olds with a chance to make December’s exclusive, six-skater Grand Prix Final.

This is Gold’s lone competition until the new year. Many will watch and wonder how she stacks up among Americans heading into January’s national championships. (Two U.S. women are ranked in the top 30 in the world this season, with many big names sitting out the fall.)

“From where her life was, I think it takes some major balls to even put herself back into this situation,” said Abbott, who noted that when he first visited Gold in the spring, she had her double jumps back. “For where she came from, she’s made huge strides. It’s really been impressive to watch her growth.”

In the men’s field, double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu is a heavy favorite given the absence of his top rivals, Nathan Chen and Shoma Uno. Canadian Keegan Messing and Russian Mikhail Kolyada are also in the mix to qualify for the Grand Prix Final.

In pairs, Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are the clear favorites on home ice, but Americans Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc carry the intrigue.

They have a great chance at the Grand Prix Final if they can finish second, after taking third at Skate America four weeks ago. Cain and LeDuc rank fourth in the Rostelecom field by best scores this season but are only 4.21 points behind the second-ranked pair.

Russians Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin headline the ice dance. They’re ranked second in the world behind Americans Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, who clinched their Grand Prix Final spot three weeks ago.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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