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Looking back at McKayla Maroney's Olympic gymnastics career

Asher Fair
SENIOR ANALYST
Feature
347   //    18 Apr 2018, 15:58 IST

Olympics Day 9 - Gymnastics - Artistic
McKayla Maroney, 2012 Summer Olympics in London

McKayla Maroney spoke publicly about Larry Nassar's sexual assault for the first time since revealing six months ago on Twitter that he assaulted her under the guise of medical treatment starting when she was only 13 years old.

Maroney was the first of four of the five members of the 2012 United States Olympic women's gymnastics team who have accused the 54-year-old disgraced former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University physician of sexual assault.

The other three members of that team, which has been nicknamed the "Fierce Five", who have accused Nassar of sexual assault are Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber.

Maroney also revealed that USA Gymnastics forced her to enter a non-disclosure agreement and paid her $1.25 million for it so that she would not discuss her sexual assault. USA Gymnastics initially denied trying to silence her.

Nassar is currently locked up at a maximum-security federal prison named United States Penitentiary Tucson in Tucson, Arizona. He is serving a 60-year federal prison sentence, which is the first of three lengthy sentences that he was given this past December after being charged with three counts of child pornography.

This prison offers a sex offender program for people such as Nassar, who sexually assaulted over 260 people under the guise of medical treatment over the course of roughly two decades before he was finally arrested in December of 2016 three months after Rachael Denhollander became the first woman to publicly accuse him of sexual assault when she told her story to the Indianapolis Star.

Nassar was also sentenced to between 40 and 175 years in state prison on seven sexual assault charges in January and between an additional 40 and 125 years in state prison on three more sexual assault charges in February.

A victim impact statement that was prepared by Maroney was read on her behalf in front of Judge Rosemarie Aquilina and Nassar himself during his sentencing hearing in January. This sentencing hearing took place in an Ingham County, Michigan courtroom.

In Maroney's first public speaking appearance since accusing Nassar of sexual assault, which took place during a luncheon for the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children at The Pierre hotel in New York, New York on Tuesday, she questioned whether or not her illustrious gymnastics career, which included an appearance in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England, was really worth it given the fact that she was forced to endure sexual assault at the hands of Nassar while she was competing.

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Here is what the 22-year-old had to say about the matter, according to The Washington Post.

“I at times question if my gymnastics career was really even worth it because of the stuff I’m dealing with now, because sometimes you’re just left in the dust. You have to pick up the pieces of your life. That has been the hardest part for me, but it’s always three steps forward, two steps back.”

With that in mind, let's have a look at what Maroney was able to accomplish in her gymnastics career, which officially ended in 2016, specifically in the Olympics.

Maroney went to the Olympic Trials in 2012 after several years of competing and winning medals in competitions such as the junior and senior Visa Championships, the junior and senior CoverGirl Classic, the Pan American Championships, the City of Jesolo Trophy, the World Championships and the Secret U.S. Classic.

Maroney was selected to the 2012 United States Olympic women's gymnastics team after winning the gold medal in the vault, finishing in fifth place in the floor exercise and finishing in seventh place in the all-around competition in the 2012 Olympic Trials.

Along with Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber and Kyla Ross, the 16-year-old Maroney headed to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England ready to perform on the biggest stage of her life.

The United States Olympic women's gymnastics team were the favorites to win the gold medal, as The Spread pegged their odds at (-110), or 10:11.

Maroney, who was heavily favored to win the individual vault gold medal, as The Spread pegged her odds at (-175), or 4:7, was one of the three members of her team to perform on the vault in the team competition.

Her vault in this competition is considered by many gymnastics experts and non-gymnastics experts alike to be the greatest vault of all-time.

Maroney's vault was given a score of 16.233, which was by far the highest of the 24 gymnasts who performed on the vault in the team competition, although many people argue that it should have been scored a 16.500, which would have been a perfect score for that particular Amanar vault.

As expected, the team went on to become the first United States Olympic women's gymnastics team to win the gold medal since the 1996 team did so in the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. They won with a score of 183.596, which was 5.066 points higher than the score of Russia, the team that won the silver medal.

Maroney's lone individual event was unsurprisingly the vault. During the broadcast of the event, announcers Al Trautwig and Tim Daggett lauded the 16-year-old phenom as the overwhelming favorite, even basically guaranteeing that she would win it.

Olympics Day 9 - Gymnastics - Artistic
McKayla Maroney, 2012 Summer Olympics in London

Here were some of the remarks that the two men made during the broadcast of the event, according to SportsPress.

Trautwig:

“In the vault final, McKayla Maroney is about as big a favorite as you can be.”
“She’s the best in the world.”
"It’s not a matter of a tenth. It’s really a matter of more than that.”

Daggett:

“In the last two years, if you took the absolute worst vaults that I’ve seen McKayla Maroney do in the last two years, she wins easy.”
“The next closest person, she is far superior. Everybody in the world knows that.”

Trautwig:

“So McKayla Maroney possesses something no one else does. We’re just going to have to wait like her to see it.”
“You really wonder what the presence of McKayla Maroney is doing to the field here today.”

Daggett:

“Well they know that, really, they know she’s going to win. I don’t know if there’s another athlete at these games that is so much better than everybody else.”

Here is what happened in the finals. (Maroney performs roughly 19 minutes into the video.)

In one of the most shocking upsets in the history of the Olympics, which, quite frankly, still hurts to watch to this day, Romania's Sandra Izbașa, whose vault score in the team competition only tied for eighth best out of the scores of the 24 gymnasts who performed on the vault in that competition, walked away as the gold medalist in the vault.

Meanwhile, Maroney had to settle for a silver medal ahead of bronze medalist Maria Paseka of Russia.

Here is what Daggett now stated, according to NBC Sports.

“There was no more of a guaranteed gold coming into the Olympic Games in gymnastics than McKayla Maroney on vault."

As the Romanian national anthem was being played while the three podium finishers stood on the podium with their medals, a look of disgust came across Maroney's face. Her face, in that moment, became a viral meme that is still rather popular to this day even nearly six years later.

Here is what she had to say after falling on her second vault in the finals, ending what was an astounding streak of 33 consecutive vaults during which she landed her dismount, according to the New York Times.

“It happens. It’s gymnastics, and you can’t be perfect. Sometimes, things don’t go as planned. I don’t blame it on anything else. I just messed up.”
“I just wanted to prove to everybody that I can hit two vaults and do my best for U.S.A., that’s what I’m disappointed about. Just about how I trained so hard, and, just on this day, it didn’t go."

Maroney admitted in 2014 that the first thought that crossed her mind when she fell was that she needed to go to the next Summer Olympics in 2016, according to NBC Sports.

“My first thought was, well, I guess I’m going to the next Olympics. 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 ended her illustrious gymnastics career in February of 2016 prior to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, so she never got another chance to win a gold medal in the vault.

However, Maroney has undoubtedly become a stronger person, and that showed when she became the first high-profile gymnast to accuse Larry Nassar of sexual assault even despite the fact that USA Gymnastics paid her $1.25 million to keep quiet about the assault that she was forced to endure.

This strength undoubtedly radiated brightly once again when Maroney made her first public speaking appearance since accusing Nassar of sexual assault.

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