Maggie Nichols: “I’m really looking forward to competing as a team.

We recently caught up with 2015 World Champion Maggie Nichols, who’s making the transition from elite gymnastics to life at the University of Oklahoma, where she is currently training for her freshman season. In this Q&A, Maggie discusses her experiences before and after the Olympic Trials, training for NCAA, and whether or not she’ll return to elite.

Inside Gymnastics: How is your training going in general? Are you training any new skills for the new season?
Maggie Nichols: Training has been going really well. I haven’t really been training any new skills; I’m just trying to perfect everything—every time I go up, [I try] to have no wobbles, and stick every dismount.

Inside: What are you most looking forward to this season? What are some of your main goals?
Maggie: I’m really looking forward to competing as a team… and having my team cheering for me and also trying to help the team win another national championship, and just having fun while I’m out there.

Inside: So could you tell us about the Olympic Trials, and your experience there?
Maggie: Being able to go to Olympic Trials and represent the U.S. was just a huge honor to even be there, and seeing the Olympic Trials signs everywhere I went was [also] a huge honor, [it was] all the hard work just paying off. And being able to compete with the girls that went to the Olympics was amazing, and it was a great experience.

Inside: You said in one article that you were offered the opportunity to train at the Ranch at the Olympic camp. Could you tell us a little more about that?
Maggie: Yes, I was offered to train while they were at the camp, but we decided to turn it down just because someone would have had to get hurt for me to be an alternate, and so we decided it was best for me to go back and get healthy for college and it was the best option for me.

Inside: Can we talk about your amazingly steady rise to elite success? You were 5th at P&Gs in 2013 and then you had such a great year in 2015, winning two medals at Worlds. What were some of the reasons that you were able to really improve in such a short amount of time?
Maggie: I think it’s because I really took a step back and looked at all of my goals that I wanted to achieve in the future, and I really figured out what I needed to do both mentally and physically to achieve my goals. And I think I just got a lot stronger [when I was] competing, which helped me go further in my career.

Inside: You post so many inspirational quotes on social media, and people seem to really enjoy those. Could you tell us how your positive mindset has helped your gymnastics career?
Maggie: Yeah, I think being positive all the time would help me [during my elite career]. Because if I’m going through a hard time, I can look at positive quotes, [and look] at the positive of a situation, and it probably makes me stronger in the long run. So I was being positive and helping others stay positive, and it helped me get past some hard times and made me a stronger person, I think.

Inside: What are some of your favorite gymnastics memories from throughout the years?
Maggie: A few of my favorite memories are making my first national team, and then traveling internationally with the team, I think [those were] great memories. And also… winning the [2015] World Championships with my team was just a huge honor and I think one of the best moments of my life thus far.

Inside: How would you say NCAA is different from elite as far as training, learning choreography, and just the team atmosphere in general?
Maggie: I think it’s a lot different, but it’s still very hard. College is more team-oriented, and we’re doing everything as a team and trying to win as a team, so we have our [teammates] behind us no matter what we’re doing. And then the training; I think it is very hard also trying to perfect every single turn, and you’re trying to get as strong as you possibly can, getting up at like 5:30 to do conditioning and then going to school, and then going back to practice. It’s harder in a different way.

Inside: Martha Karolyi has retired from her role as national team coordinator; could you talk about some of your favorite memories at the Ranch with Martha?
Maggie: Martha was amazing. I mean, she was very strict, but at the same time she just wanted the best for each and every girl. And she really took the time for each person individually to come over and tell what we need to work on, what we’re doing good, and I think she was a huge role model for all the athletes, especially for me… she had a huge impact on my gymnastics.

Inside: So you’ve decided that you won’t return to elite after NCAA…
Maggie: Umm, I mean it kind of all depends. I don’t have a for sure answer… probably not.

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Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com