At only 20 years old, McKayla Maroney retired from gymnastics in a whole and celebrated career. This amazing starlet had led the American women’s gymnastics team to victory at the 2012 Summer Olympics. She quickly became one of the significant figures in the United States’ sporting history, not to mention a viral internet meme.
Maroney had to overcome many obstacles to reach the pinnacle of such a career full of glitz and glamour. Many of them were struggles that were hidden from the public’s eye before she became the famous gymnast that everyone knew. This is the incredible true story of McKayla Maroney.
McKayla Maroney was born on December 9, 1995, and her full name is McKayla Rose Maroney. She had parents that were also athletes in their youth. Her mother, Erin Maroney, was a figure skater and her father, Mike Maroney, played American Football as a quarterback at Purdue University.
McKayla was one of three children, Tarynn, her sister, and Kav, her brother. They grew up in Aliso Viejo, California. With parents who were already very active in sports, it was almost no surprise that McKayla would follow in their footsteps, albeit in a different sport.
It was undeniable that McKayla had inherited her parents’ sporting genes from an extremely young age. It was just that no one could have ever predicted that she would soar to the dizzying heights of gymnastics.
When her parents saw how talented she was in sports, McKayla Maroney was home-schooled to focus on gymnastics and polish her talents. Even her brother and sister were home-schooled because they were talented in sports during those childhood years.
In an interview in The Orange County Register, McKayla was quoted as saying, “When I was younger, I would be watching Tarzan and running around on all fours. My mom was like, ‘I need to put this child in gymnastics. She’s crazy’.”
Putting her in gymnastics was precisely what her mother did, and she was only two years old at the time. Even at such a tender age, McKayla admitted that she felt comfortable in the gym. The combination of her natural talent and the keen observation of her mother is noticing this talent was the epitome of nature and nurture.
Her display of skill and talent did not just catch her parents’ eyes, but it also grabbed the attention of her teachers. For them, McKayla’s skill was overwhelmingly God-given.
The realization that many adults acknowledge her skill even at such a young age became the fuel that fired her drive, desire, and passion for excelling at gymnastics. At such a tender age and in the frame of just a child, McKayla was already dreaming big and aiming for the Olympics.
As she grew and her dreams started to take shape, personalities in the sport started to influence her. One of her most significant influences in gymnastics was Carly Patterson.
In an interview with NBC, McKayla cited that Carly was indeed one of her favorites when she said, “I loved her floor routine … I remember seeing the gymnasts on the floor, and I loved all of their leotards. I thought they were so little and so amazing.”. Not just the routines but the apparel was something that did her love gymnastics altogether.
As much as McKayla grew up with confidence in her abilities and the support from her family, friends, and teachers, she still had some doubts and insecurities about her future in gymnastics. She was not sure whether or not the sport was indeed her destiny.
In some way, after noticing that almost every gymnast is not too tall and very small-framed, a little voice in her head started to wonder what would happen if she physically outgrew the average female physique of the sport. She was worried that she might grow too tall since her father was 6’ 3” even though her mother was only 5’2”.
Nevertheless, despite that little insecure thought about herself and how it might affect her future as a gymnast, McKayla still made quite an appearance in her junior gymnastic stint. She competed in the Visa Championships in Dallas, Texas, in 2009, where she got third place in the vault final.
She chose a routine that involved the ‘Amanar’ style of a jump for the first time in any competition. Regarding this, she told NBC, “I was just 13 years old. I was just tiny, and I didn’t know what was going on. But I just did it, and I was just pleased that I landed on my feet.”
Her incredible performance at the Visa Championships vaulted her career (pun intended!), McKayla proved that she was already prepared for any competition at that level or even higher. She competed again in the CoverGirl Classic held in Chicago, Illinois, where she took seventh place.
A few months later, she competed again in the Pan American Championship in Guadalajara, Mexico, which enabled the American team to bag first place. The rocket launched for McKayla’s career, but she could not have foreseen it would soon reach the stratosphere.
By the end of 2010, the world began to notice and recognize the name, McKayla Maroney. She was hyped as one of the United States’ most talented young athletes. In 2011, she was part of the U.S. team that won first place at the Tokyo Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Tokyo, Japan.
She told the International Gymnast Magazine about that experience, saying that “For every competition, I just went in there with confidence in myself and my team, and each day it felt like I gained more and more experience.”
McKayla’s career was rising to great heights. She was raking in success after success. Even though she was already seen as a gymnastics star, the arduous task of holding up to the status and maintaining a level of professionally demanding consistency took its toll on her.
Competitive sport is not without the dangerous pitfalls of injury. In the 2012 Visa Championships, Maroney learned it the hard way when she fell on her back during warmups and was immediately brought to the hospital with a concussion and nasal fracture.
Getting injured is not the best news for any athlete, but for someone like McKayla, being the bona fide gymnastics star that she is, the injury could not have happened at the worst time. This was because 2012 was the year for the Summer Olympics in London, and that was just around the corner.
Injured or not, she was determined to make sure that she was selected to represent Team USA. With that, she was already out of the hospital a week after the injury she experienced at the 2012 Visa Championships.
Commenting on making it to the USA gymnastics team for the 2012 Olympics, McKayla said in an interview with NBC by saying, “This is the best feeling. It’s just so amazing. I’m in shock right now.” She was happy to be selected herself and was just as happy to know that some of her best friends in the sport also represent the country.
She was quick in mentioning, “These girls are my best friends. My teammate Kyla Ross, we have been best friends since we were six years old, so it’s just absolutely amazing to be going to the Olympics.”
McKayla and her fellow USA teammates typically compete against each other at a national level, but she was once glad they were on the same team. She has always thought of them as her closest friends and, to an extent, part of her extended family.
Most of the girls felt like sisters to McKayla, and for them to be on the same team meant that all the hard work, pain, and suffering they needed to endure as gymnasts, finally paid off, and they were ready for the world stage.
People forgot that beneath all the hype, fame, and reputation, McKayla was only 16 years old. Despite her age, she had the strength, clear-headedness, and confidence of a young woman that was way beyond her age.
It’s crazy to think of how much she has been through for someone so young. Despite what the famous picture may show, she almost always has a smile on her face and a positive attitude.
Her interview with NBC speaks volumes of her confidence, in which she said, “If I do my job, I know I can get the gold medal. That’s what they picked me to be on the team for, so I need to be confident about that.”
It’s distinctively more confident than arrogant and shows how prepared she was to represent her country. It was a confidence that would go on to be justified.
Let’s not forget that if you’re a young and stunning athlete representing the United States of America, there is bound to attract a lot of media attention. One of them included an offer from Sports Illustrated to appear in their cover of the July 2012, Olympic preview issue.
With the faces of the entire US gymnastics team on the cover, the cover shoot was the grand entrance for McKayla and her fellow gymnasts in telling everyone that they could take on the world.
When the Olympics arrived, McKayla had already felt like it was a long time coming. Years of training, of hopes and dreams, and then months of training and overcoming an injury, McKayla felt like she was ready for it. But, like things could not have gotten any worse, the unthinkable happened when she injured the big toe of her right foot during training.
The Olympics just could not give her a break. Yet, she was undeterred and determined to take on the Olympic event and the vault only to find it impossible to complete the routine perfectly in her injured state.
To say that McKayla was disappointed and sad was an understatement. She was just heartbroken. McKayla already reached her dream of participating in the Olympics, but an injury prevented her from showing her true potential.
But the biggest shock was from her statement to the public through NBC, saying that she will continue, regardless of the injury, “Bad things happen, you just have to make the best of it. It does hurt. It’s broken. How is it not going to hurt? I just try to ignore it, and I have worked so hard to be here I can ignore the pain for a little bit.”
Events like the Olympics set the cream from the crop, the big boys from the little boys. This case sets apart the big girl who was McKayla Maroney, from the little girls. She is competing in the greatest sports of her life and doing it injured.
The pain was nothing compared to the desire to lead her team to qualify for the team event’s final in the first place and also qualifying in the first place to the final in the individual event. The pain was not going to be the excuse to hold this young lady back.
McKayla Maroney was not allowing anything to stop her from reaching her dream and what she believed was her destiny. All of America was glued on her, cheering, and rooting for young McKayla and the entire US gymnastics team.
The gymnastics team was popularly nicknamed the Fierce Five. What many do not realize is that McKayla gave this nickname. She and a teammate, Jordyn Wieber, felt like the name was more suited to them rather than the Fab Five, which at the time was already familiarly used to address the US basketball team and also Duran Duran.
With the support of a nation and the love showered upon them from everyone across the United States, the Fierce Five was determined and confident that they could pull off a win. True enough, the entire world bore witness and was in awe when McKayla’s performance contributed the highest ever execution score.
This led the Fierce Five straight to the gold medal. The pain and hardships were worth it, and they were able to bring home the biggest prize for an Olympic gymnast—the Olympic gold.
Everyone hailed McKayla Maroney as the star of the show and the team event. Everyone, except McKayla herself, of course. She saw it differently because the success was all down to her teammates as far as she was concerned.
McKayla said in the post-performance interview after the gold medal win that, “I just wanted them to do so well, and I’m just so proud of them. I was screaming and yelling. That last event on the floor was exhilarating but amazing at the same time. I don’t think I will ever, ever forget that.”
As much as McKayla was exhilarated for her teammates in the team event, she suffered a personal blow in the individual event. She was highly regarded as one of the most talented Olympians in the vault event, and she could only win silver.
Regardless of that, McKayla was still in high spirits as in her own words during the post-event interview, “I didn’t get my full block, my hands didn’t touch the vault. I still walked out with a silver medal, and I’m happy about that.”
Nevertheless, fans all around the world were delighted and impressed with McKayla’s overall attitude. Despite a successful appearance in the Olympics, she stayed humble and positive regardless of the outcome.
This attitude of hers was reflected in her own words when she replied to one of the interviewers during the post-event interview session by saying, “It’s gymnastics. You can’t always be perfect. Sometimes things don’t go as planned.”
Probably the only real downside to that moment when McKayla won the silver medal was when a picture of her standing on the podium after receiving the silver medal went viral for all the wrong reasons.
Her picture showed as if she was making a facial impression of being unimpressed with winning a silver medal. It then became a meme with the tag “McKayla is not impressed” and was regarded as one of the most well-known memes of 2012.
Once the Olympics was over, McKayla kept to herself to train and focus on her next competition. Somehow, injury struck once again after she fell from the bars during the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions in Ontario, California.
It was found that she had fractured her tibia based on the MRI scan not being able to compete in upcoming events was the least of her problems because she was not even able to walk due to injury.
Being side-lined from gymnastics does not mean that McKayla was just going to sit around. She was still one of America’s hottest media darlings at the time. Since she was temporarily unable to compete professionally, McKayla signed a sponsorship agreement in 2013 with Adidas.
Besides that, she was also one of the panels of judges for the Miss America beauty pageant. She appeared in the music video for the song ‘Up in the Air’ by the American alternative rock band, Thirty Seconds to Mars.
It did not take McKayla long to return to gymnastics, though, because in July 2013, she was already on the mat, competitively. Everyone was glad to see that she was again competing, and in the first event she joined after suffering a fractured tibia, she came in first on the vault.
She then participated in the P&G Championships and the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, where she won gold in both tournaments. In Belgium, she competed alongside other gymnastics legends such as Simone Biles and Kyla Ross.
One of the most revealing interviews that McKayla has ever done was with a gymnastics-centered podcast called ‘GymCastic’ in 2016, where she candidly revealed that she was retiring from gymnastics.
For someone that has been known to be very transparent in her statements and honest in her interviews, McKayla’s shock revelation was, well, shocking. In her own words, McKayla said, “I had to quit gymnastics because my body was just done.”
Very few people truly understand the physical and psychological challenges faced by young female gymnasts. At that moment, people were still reeling over the reason for McKayla’s decision to retire.
The biggest bombshell was unveiled in 2017 when McKayla, together with several other women who were all former gymnasts, accused former USA gymnastics team physician, Larry Nassar of emotional and sexual abuse against them when they were still minors.
They had to keep silent, and most kept the stories of abuse as skeletons in their closets. To relive all those memories was a tall order, but McKayla’s explosive testimony was something she was determined to deliver.
Deliver she did, and with her testimony recorded, Larry Nassar has been served justice was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison. Even though Nassar has paid the price for his actions, it will never undo the scars inflicted on McKayla and so many other young women.
They not only had to deal with reliving the traumatic memories by recounting them in court and have them been recorded as testimonies, but they also had to endure the hounding of the press and media.
McKayla herself revealed that the constant pressure and presence of the paparazzi was just too much for her that she developed anxiety and an eating disorder. All of that proved her point regarding the general toxic nature of the gymnastics world.
The example set by McKayla and all the other ladies were inspirational. Their character and the strength and emotional fortitude that they have shown throughout the proceedings were the kinds of examples that women from all walks of life needed to follow.
Unafraid and courageous, they combined in numbers to bring down a tormentor in their lives, proving that they were all survivors. They were all awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2018, dedicated to individuals whose contributions to society transcend sports.
After closing the chapter involving Larry Nassar, McKayla had to deal with another massive blow in her life in 2019. Her father passed away that year at the age of 59. She revealed that her father had suffered an addiction to pain medication and died in an attempt to detox himself from them.
McKayla has been pounded by so many trials and tribulations in her life and career but has always come out of them stronger and with greater maturity. Let’s not forget that by 2019, McKayla was still only 23 years old.
Many wondered what she would do after hanging up her leotards in the minds of most of McKayla’s fans and followers. For someone who has achieved so much at such a young age, many would not be surprised if she decided just to give it a rest.
As with all things related to Miss McKayla Maroney, she throws a curveball at you. She later announced that she was going to embark on a new career as a singer and songwriter. For many people, this was both a pleasant yet surprising piece of news.
McKayla is talented not just in gymnastics but also in writing songs and singing. Already renowned as a very determined young woman, it makes sense that she would apply the same sense of determination as a gymnast to her new career choice.
In addition to talent, McKayla also has the humility and modesty to say that she does not expect any kind of chart-topping hits but would be just as happy to write music that can help others heal from traumatic experiences. Since to her, music was always the outlet that helped her heal.
Suppose it ever comes to question what she meant when she says she wanted to help others heal. In that case, it’s rooted in her knowledge and experience that a gymnastics career is filled with psychological land mined, especially for young adolescent athletes.
McKayla has made it clear that she feels obligated to help other aspiring gymnasts survive this. She explained on Twitter, “I was never informed about the costs and wished I would’ve known some of them.”
Famed for being blatantly honest, McKayla revealed in her Twitter post that by saying that “I had a fractured shin, and a shattered and dislocated sesamoid bone, and my nose was still broken from my concussion the month prior. Lots of gymnasts compete with crazy injuries.”
She said this to ensure that any potential gymnasts are fully aware of the real risks of such a career. This ensures that they are mentally and psychologically prepared for the challenges that await them and make better decisions on their future.
Many would also be surprised to know that other than her choice of venturing into music, McKayla also embarked on expanding her brand into the health and beauty channel called ‘Glohe.’ For her, ‘Glohe’ is an avenue for her to provide her fans, followers and just about anyone her tips on how to stay positive and to be happy and healthy.
Her channel has already garnered 23,000 followers in 2020 alone, and it does not look like it will slow down any time soon. So, you can add a social influencer and one of her new designations.
McKayla’s career and life story is as incredible as they come, and it comes as no surprise that she inspires many. It does not matter if you look up to her for what she’s inside or outside the sporting arena. It cannot be denied that McKayla is talented, confident, and strong-willed.
Not many can endure such adversity in their professional and personal lives, but McKayla has endured them all with charisma, charm, humility, and positivity. She is indeed an inspirational individual.
Although it is well-known to many that McKayla hung up her gymnastics leotard many years ago, it does not take away the fact that she is still a gymnastics icon and one of the most recognized faces in the sport. Even though she retired, she is still a hot commodity in popular media and advertisements.
A series of GEICO commercials has seen her gained a starring role in her leotard once more. It brought back many memories from her days in the arena to many of her fans seeing in those commercials.
It is, of course, not unusual to see former sports icons appear in commercials, ads, and promos, both in television and print media. However, they would normally just make name placements or utilize their faces for those ads and promos.
McKayla, on the other hand, did more than just made a cameo; she showed off her gymnastics moves in those GEICO commercials, and it just delighted her fans. She showed off her incredible backflips onto a roof, and most importantly, she also brilliantly showed off the iconic ‘not impressed’ face.
And her starring turn in the series of GEICO commercials isn’t the only way Maroney has cemented her star status since retiring from the world of competitive gymnastics. As we know, she also, for many years, was secretly harboring a desire to try to make it in a music career.
Now the budding songstress has released no fewer than three songs! “Wake Up Call” was the very first single she released on March 7, 2020. This was followed by two more singles titled “Covid Lockdown” and “Spose to Do.”
But wait, that’s not all there is to her list of things to do. McKayla also embarked on a string of acting appearances for a variety of shows. It appears that the sky is just the limit for this highly talented young woman.
Some of her acting roles included CW’s ‘Heart of Dixie, where she made an appearance in one episode titled ‘Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me.’ However, she was then called back to appear in another episode soon after. Fans have also spotted her on Fox’s ‘Bones’ and NBC’s ‘Superstore.’
Already making waves in advertising, music, and acting, McKayla has also made headlines around the world for more serious reasons as well. Due to her role in bringing down Larry Nassar, she later made it part of her responsibility to deal with matters that have plagued gymnastics at a national level.
She took all the force and fury of bringing Nassar to justice by taking legal action against USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, and the United States Olympic Committee. This ensures that justice is truly upheld, and every party is accountable for helping to cover up the Nassar’s actions.
By now, you must be thinking, ‘What else could McKayla Maroney be doing after having done just about everything?” After having her life packed with all the activities mentioned above, McKayla is on the verge of releasing a book on her experiences as a gymnast.
She is well on her way to becoming an author. McKayla’s expressed her feelings about the matter on Twitter by saying, “It felt too hard to write about before. But I’m ready now.”
No matter how bad the situation has been for her in her life, and even when the chips are down, McKayla always has a knack for making something positive out of nothing. Her maturity and poise in handling tough situations are the stuff of legends.
What is more endearing is her humility and selflessness and the way she thinks about others? Using her massive social media following, McKayla is always encouraging the younger generation of gymnasts.
McKayla has amassed millions of followers on social media, and she has a tremendously huge fanbase. This entirely makes her a social influencer, and she very much realizes this. In tune with her positive attitude, McKayla puts her social media to good use.
One good example is her fitness Instagram page, Glohe, which she uses to inform her followers about good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. So not only is she a sports star and a celebrity, but McKayla is also an internet sensation.
Even though McKayla has been well known as someone that constantly spreads positive messages through her socials, it is also not unusual to see her use the internet as an instrument for her to share more personal or intimate details of her life to her fans and followers.
This includes some very personal health struggles. McKayla suffers from a condition that is called Keratosis Pilaris, or KP. It is a dermatological condition where small red bumps appear on a person’s skin. She posted on Instagram a post that showed her arms in that condition while writing. “KP, but make it sexy.”
Everyone was amazed when they first knew about McKayla’s skin condition through her social media. They were empathized with how she was able to handle the situation of having KP and how she goes about her daily life in dealing with the condition.
One example was when she posted on Instagram about an appointment at a med spa where she wrote, “I had an appointment at a med spa yesterday, and the lights in there were so bright, it was like they were meant to bring out every single little flaw. I had just worked out, too, which always makes my KP look extra red, during and after.”
Her honesty and sincerity are some things that just leave people extremely impressed and amazed at McKayla. Normally, famous and admired people across so many levels would leave some parts of their lives, such as medical conditions, as part of the skeletons in their closet. But they are just not McKayla Maroney.
Her openness on her medical condition is also a testimony to help other people deal with their medical conditions. One example was a response from one of her fans, who was also a KP sufferer, which said, “Thanks for sharing and bringing real, McKayla.”
Besides her medical condition involving KP, McKayla was also open to her fans and followers about a medical situation in 2021. She revealed that she has been suffering from very intense stomach pains to the point where it got her admitted to the hospital’s emergency room.
The media and paparazzi were all abuzz surrounding this mysterious turn of events, and they might have even followed her to the E.R. A post made by McKayla from the hospital bed made it even more unbearable for everyone to know what everything was about.
Even though she was already in the hospital at that moment in time, McKayla herself was just waiting for the medical team’s assessment of her situation. So, she was just in the same situation as everybody else who wanted to know what exactly happened to her.
The only thing that people outside of the hospital knew was a post that McKayla herself shared about the events leading up to her hospitalization. She wrote, “Tuesday I was throwing up all day, with severe pain in my back and stomach.”
If fans and followers were already worried about her, what else could be said about her close friends and family? Everyone was just curious about her situation and how it could have manifested in just a few hours.
Though they were relieved that she was already in the hospital and under the care of professionals, they were just anxious to find out what caused it. Finally, after hours of waiting, McKayla updated everyone with a piece of news in which she wrote on her socials, “Just got my CT scan back. I have a few kidney stones.”
So many people were very worried about McKayla’s medical emergency, but the diagnosis of the kidney stones gave everyone a sigh of relief. They were still a bit worried about her condition because it would be a long road to recovery.
McKayla herself made this clear when she updated her socials by saying, “Unfortunately, nothing has changed. Still on pain management.” Even for someone who is no stranger to a lot of physical pain from her experiences as a gymnast, it was still a heartbreak for many to know that she was currently facing such a painful predicament.
In typical McKayla Maroney fashion, she was already well on her way towards recovery after the doctors decided to proceed with a surgical procedure to remove her kidney stones. McKayla was constantly in high spirits, and after the surgery, it did not take her long to bounce back again.
What was amazing was that McKayla is not afraid to follow other people’s advice aside from being an example for others to follow. She revealed on social media by saying, “One of my followers on here said to try out a tea tree Epsom salt bath, and I loved it! Great tip!”