by Anna Rose Johnson

Inside Gymnastics is all about gaining an inside look at gymnastics, and interviewing some of the world’s top athletes (along with up-and-coming stars) is a major part of learning more about the “behind the scenes” aspect of our sport. We’ve curated some of our favorite quotes from the Q&As we conducted this year, from Olympic champions to aspiring elites:

2017 U.S. elite Riley McCusker on training with Olympic champion Laurie Hernandez: “It was incredible training alongside Laurie last year. Every day, she just motivated me so much [seeing] her go through the Olympic process, [because] that’s what I want to do in a couple years. Now I know what to expect and I watched someone from my own gym accomplish the ultimate goal; so I know it is possible with my training.”

2016 Olympic finalist Eythora Thorsdottir of the Netherlands on competing in Rio: “That was amazing! I couldn’t have been more proud of our team. [I was proud of] Sanne Wevers [who] won the gold on beam, and my own results. We all made history for our own country, which still gives me goosebumps every time I think about it!”

2017 Worlds competitor Marlies Männersdorfer of Austria on her choice of floor music: “I chose the music, ‘Fight Song,’ because it motivates [me]. Fighting is part of my life, because I never give up and I fight to make my dreams come true.”

2016 U.S. Olympic team alternate Ashton Locklear on her experience as a reserve athlete in Rio: “Traveling to Brazil as part of Team USA was the best experience I’ve had so far in my life. Even though I did not get the chance to compete, just being able to go to Rio to train and cheer on the Final Five was a tremendous honor. I was so proud to be one of the alternates. I was proud of the way we trained and never gave up, even in the face of the ever-present obstacles. We truly learned what it meant to have that ‘USA’ on our backs even though we were not out there on the competition floor.”

2015 U.S. World Champion Maggie Nichols on her goals in NCAA: “Probably my biggest goal [until I graduate] is just to help out the team as much as I can, to keep winning national titles for the program. And also, I [would like to] snag an individual all-around title. So I’m going to keep working for those goals.”

Future LSU Tiger Bailey Ferrer on her elite career: “I would not go back and change a thing. There have been some real rough times. Through big or small injuries that needed time to heal or simply work through, my experiences as an elite, or switching of coaches, have all taught me so much. I feel I have matured in this sport in areas I would not have if I had not faced these challenges. My journey continues on and I look forward to what the future brings.”

U.S. senior elite Emily Schild on becoming a veteran of the sport: “It just feels amazing. I look back at myself looking up to Kyla and Lexie, and remember thinking ‘I hope I can do that someday.’ Now it’s my turn. I hear myself telling the juniors on the team right now, “You can do it, be confident you can push through it, [with] mental toughness you can get there.” I hope I have made a difference and helped younger elites at camp.”

2004 Olympic champion Carly Patterson on her victory in Athens: “As I get older, I appreciate more and more and realize more and more what I did. The win—it still seems surreal; it’s not something I think about on a daily basis, that I won the Olympics. I always have to kind of remember, ‘Oh yeah, I did that,’ when I have to talk about it.”

2016 Canadian Olympian Isabela Onyshko on taking a break after Rio: “Coming back was a much harder process than I thought it would be. However, the process let me rediscover the joy I felt as a little girl doing gymnastics. I want to keep that joy.”

2017 U.S. Classic champion Alyona Shchennikova on growing up with her sister, former elite Polina: “Training with Polina was amazing. She was my idol growing up and I felt so blessed training with her. She would always push me to be my best. She was and still is incredibly inspirational to me because she was one who didn’t give up.”

U.S. senior elite Deanne Soza on training at Texas Dreams: “I love Texas Dreams! Being a gymnast herself, Kim [Zmeskal-Burdette] understands and is really good at helping us in so many ways. She helps us prepare physically and mentally as we train. Chris is also amazing; he jokes around a lot and helps us to stay calm and have fun.”

LSU star Sarah Finnegan on the greatest moments of her career: “Honestly, the greatest moments in my collegiate career are when I’m with my team. On the bus, on a plane, in the gym, at meets; we always have SO much fun no matter what we’re doing. I wouldn’t want to spend my NCAA career with any other group of girls.”

J.O. gymnast Lauren Maxwell on perseverance: “Through all of these rough patches I never gave up. I like to think of myself as The Little Engine That Could. I am determined to do this sport until I no longer can. Gymnastics has helped me through so many areas of my life, and I just can’t imagine not doing it anymore.”

1996 Olympic champion Amanda Borden on coaching: “The whole reason I coach is because I have such a great appreciation for my coach and what she did for me personally. I think one of the greatest things about coaching is just having the opportunity to help somebody else’s dreams come true.”

J.O. gymnast Ashley Lane on her role models in gymnastics: “Watching the success of the teams like the Fierce Five and Final Five has definitely motivated me to improve and push for the elite level. Watching collegiate and elite gymnasts compete their amazing skills motivates me to achieve those skills and be where they are one day.”

2016 Japanese Olympian Asuka Teramoto on the Rio team final: “We finished the team finals with no mistakes, and all my team members told me ‘Thanks, captain’ in the end. [Those] words made my day. It was a very emotional moment for me.”

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