Madison Kocian’s life changed in 2009. She began the season as a Level 9 gymnast and ended the year representing the United States at the Top Gym competition in Belgium—her first international meet. At the 2010 U.S. Championships, she placed fifth in the all-around, right behind Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney. Too young for London 2012, Madison became a senior in 2013 and soon qualified to the P&G Championships, where she led night one after two rotations. Unfortunately, she was injured during the third rotation and subsequently withdrew from the competition. Despite several other injuries in the lead-up to 2016, Madison pressed on and ended up in a four-way tie for gold on uneven bars at Glasgow 2015. She capped her amazing quadrennium with Olympic team gold in Rio, along with a silver on uneven bars behind defending champion Aliya Mustafina. Now, Madison is beginning her NCAA career at UCLA, but she also hasn’t closed the door on continuing in elite. She recently chatted with us about her current training, the injury she sustained at the Olympic Trials, her elite future, growing up at WOGA, and her first floor routine choreographed by Valorie Kondos Field.

Inside Gymnastics: So tell us about the Kellogg’s Tour and your experiences performing in so many different cities.
Madison Kocian: I did about seven stops on the Kellogg’s Tour, and I mainly just chose that because I’m not pro, so I can’t accept any type of money or anything for that, so I pretty much just decided to do it on my own. I started school at UCLA, so obviously school was a priority, and starting gym out here, so I didn’t want to miss too much. The stops that I did do were very fun; it was nice to see all the Olympic team members again, and just put on a show for the fans. [It was] just a celebration after the Olympics, so it was very exciting to be a part of that.

Inside: How is your training going in general? Are you training any new skills for the new season?
Madison: I actually injured my shoulder at Olympic Trials, but we didn’t really say much of it, just because obviously I was going to push through for the Olympics and everything, so I had to take a little bit of time off here. But I didn’t want to take too much because I definitely want to compete this season. I might have to get something fixed a bit after season, but right now I’m training all four events. We’re not really sure what I’m doing on vault yet, I’m trying to learn the half-on front pike, a new vault, but we will see if I put it in this late in the season or if I just stick to the yurchenko. But everything else is going well; floor is really fun, I love having three passes and smiling in my routines. Bars, I’m keeping some of my same skills, just not all eight of them [laughs]. But other than that…mostly I’ve taken skills out of each routine, but I’m still trying to keep some of the same difficulty so it is still impressive for the fans.

Inside: Could you reflect back on the Olympics? What are some of your favorite memories from Rio?
Madison: Obviously my favorite memory was standing on the podium at the team [final], holding our gold medals and watching the flag [being] raised, and hearing our national anthem. I also worked very hard on uneven bars, that’s one of my specialties, so getting a silver medal on bars—not only for myself, but for my coaches and my family, who have definitely helped me achieve that goal—was special for me; it’s something I’ll always remember. But outside of the gym, one of my favorite memories was just sharing laughs, I guess, in our little apartment in the Olympic village. It was just very relaxing to us, going into one of the girl’s rooms and really laughing with my teammates and taking our mind off things.

Inside: So tell us about UCLA and what it’s like to make the transition to NCAA.
Madison: I came out to L.A. the day before school started, so the first three or four weeks were very hard. [Not only] transitioning back into school, but also it was very much [about] time management skills, because you must manage your classes, along with gym every morning which is like half the day, and the rehab for my shoulder, and studying and study hall with the freshman class. It think it was just time to figure out that good schedule and having a good balance for everything, but [by] the first end of the quarter I really started just enjoying want the college experience some more. [I started] having a lot of fun in the gym, especially with the team, we have a great team this year.

Inside: Do you think you will return to elite after you complete your first season at UCLA? Would you consider training for the next World Championships?
Madison: This season I’m just competing for UCLA. After I see how this season goes, if it’s something that I really want to stay doing, if I love college gymnastics, [I will] evaluate this season [and then] I’ll make a decision of what I want to do this summer and also the next four years coming up. But so far it’s still in the back of my mind, and I haven’t ruled out anything yet. It’s kind of just seeing how my body holds up this season, and seeing if I like this new chapter and new experience in my life.

Inside: You’ve had such an amazing career, from your junior success in 2010 to Olympic gold…how did you manage to stay positive and keep going in gymnastics despite your injuries, like the one you had at 2013 P&Gs?
Madison: I think it is all about the mentality that you keep. You know, there’s nothing you can do about your injuries, so the mentality I kept was always to make the best of the situation, especially at the beginning of this year, when I fractured my tibia…I didn’t know if that meant my Olympics dreams were over, or really what that meant, so I tried to find the positive out of everything. So for example, at the beginning of this year, I knew I was going to rest the rest of my body; and I also had a little mental break because I had to miss the spring competitions, but [when] the summer competitions came, I was refreshed and re-energized and ready to go, so I could really put my effort and hard work into everything.

Inside: Are you working on new floor routine for this season?
Madison: Oh, yes. I already got my new floor routine about a month or six weeks ago, and I really like it. It’s a little bit different how Miss Val choreographs; she kind of just throws a routine together and then sees what fits you, and it’s constantly changing all the way up to season and during season. So right now, my routine has changed from the very beginning, but it hasn’t changed in a couple of weeks. I’m really enjoying it, though; it’s fun to get out of that serious bubble and just have fun through the whole routine and smile.

Inside: You trained at WOGA for your entire career; could you talk about growing up training there, with such a tradition of excellence?
Madison: I think I was very fortunate that I was born and raised in Dallas, so WOGA wasn’t very far from where I lived. Some other gymnasts have to move somewhere else to go to a well-known, successful gym, so I was very thankful that I grew up in Dallas. Growing up, I remember watching Nastia mainly… I was just starting gymnastics the year Carly went to the Olympics, [so] I was too young [to remember that], but I remember Nastia training for the Olympics. Through her bad days and through the tough days, she pushed herself and it only made her better, and seeing her become an Olympic champion—that was really what I wanted to do, and that was very inspirational. I’m very lucky that I got to go to a gym like that.

Inside: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Madison: I think we have a very strong team this year…I think the most important thing for me is to have fun and enjoy competing in college versus elite. I’ve made tons of memories in elite, but college is going to be a whole new chapter and journey for me, so I’m really excited for this year.

Madison Kocian Through The Years

Madison Kocian - 2009 Nationals

2009 Nationals

2010 Nationals

2010 Nationals

2013 Nationals

2013 Nationals

2014 Nationals

2014 Nationals

2015 Worlds

2015 Worlds

2016 Olympics

2016 Olympics

Inside Gymnastics is your all-access pass to everything gymnastics! Subscribe/renew today and make sure you don’t miss an issue of Inside Gymnastics magazine!
Subscribe Today!

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