Madison Kocian, competing with tear, glad she stuck with NCAA gymnastics

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Madison Kocian is the only member of the Final Five who has competed since the Rio Olympics. She’s the only one who didn’t turn professional.

And, get this, Kocian competed both in Rio and this past season as a UCLA freshman with an injured shoulder.

She said she suffered a small subluxation (partial dislocation) on an uneven bars release move at the Olympic Trials but managed through it to win Olympic team gold and bars silver medals. Kocian previously fractured her left tibia in February 2016.

Resting last fall didn’t help matters much. Kocian then competed with a torn labrum and partially torn rotator cuff for UCLA in the spring semester, doing the all-around in 12 of 14 meets and winning half of them.

“That was the hardest thing going through the season,” Kocian said in a phone interview last month. “Nothing’s going to really heal the tear unless you do surgery. We were trying every other option.”

Kocian is taking the summer off (no surgery plans yet as of the interview). That means the P&G Championships in August will include no female gymnasts with Olympic experience for the first time since 2008.

Most women retire from elite international competition when they choose the NCAA route. Kocian has not yet.

“I know I have accomplished so much already,” said Kocian, who shared the 2015 World uneven bars title with three other gymnasts. “It’s just a matter of if I feel like I need to do anything else before closing that door. It’s still open. I could stop in college after next year and start training [elite], or finish my four years in college and continue my life.”

In this stretch last year, between the Olympic Trials and Rio Games, Kocian saw the last of her Olympic teammates turn pro (Laurie Hernandez).

Kocian said she was always set on competing as a Bruin, which meant keeping her amateur status for NCAA eligibility.

“I wanted to experience the college student-athlete life and be a part of that different world,” Kocian said. “The hardest part for me was after the Olympics, the media engagements and appearances. I couldn’t get paid for that.”

Kocian, a Texan, juggled her first quarter in Los Angeles while performing at seven stops of a 36-city USA Gymnastics post-Olympic tour and accepting an invitation to the Country Music Association Awards in Nashville.

She made the honor roll in the fall, winter and spring quarters.

“I didn’t know how I was going to make it through traveling and school at the same time,” she said. “I think maybe I should have come into school in January [rather than September].”

Kocian thought about it some more and continued her answer.

“Fall is preseason and where you really get to know your team and teammates,” before the season starts in January, she said. “I think if I would have went in January, starting school and gym season at the same time would have been even more tough.”

Kocian’s remaining UCLA goals are to earn as many All-America honors as possible (she has four; the UCLA career record is 19) and capture an NCAA team title. UCLA was fourth last season and last won in 2010.

“It was something different, a totally new experience that I was just getting used to,” she said. “I found my rhythm.”

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