By Anna Rose Johnson

The past year has been a whirlwind for Maggie Nichols, a U.S. national team member who first rose to stardom at the beginning of the last quadrennium. The end of 2015 marked her first World Championships, where she helped the U.S. team to a gold medal and won the bronze on floor exercise.

An unfortunate knee injury in April 2016 prevented Maggie from training full-time in the lead-up to the Olympics. Placing sixth at the U.S. Olympic Trials, Maggie just missed making the team going to Rio, but she resolved not to let the disappointment engulf her. She shifted her mindset to focus on preparing for her first season at Oklahoma, although the transition wasn’t easy. “The elite scene was more individualized and kind of serious and everything like that,” Maggie tells us, “and then college gymnastics is more fun and upbeat. But being away from home and doing everything on my own has been kind of a big transition for me.”

Balancing schoolwork and gymnastics was also a challenge at first. “When I was in elite gymnastics, I felt like gymnastics was my main priority, not school, [so it’s been] different,” she says. “It’s kind of different to be on my own and figuring everything out by myself.”

After scoring perfect tens on every apparatus during the 2017 season, she capped her successful freshman year with a team title at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis. “It meant the world to me [to help the team win],” says Maggie. “It felt so good winning as a team; we’d been through the hard times together, and we’d worked so hard. Coming off my disappointment from last year, it’s such an amazing feeling to achieve one of my biggest goals, which was to win [a] national championships title as a team, so that was really exciting for me.”

Maggie’s favorite moment from the 2017 season was definitely winning the NCAA team title. “The morning we woke up, we… had a team meeting,” she recalls. “Our coaches were all just very pumped up and really excited for us to get out there. We were all warming up; we were all nailing our routines, nailing every single landing. I remember Tom [Haley, assistant coach] came over to us and was like, ‘You guys [have] got to go out there and do what you’ve been doing, and you’ll win this thing.’ We just had that feeling that we were going to win the title.”

 

“We just had that feeling that we were going to win the title.”

Since NCAAs, Maggie has been enjoying some downtime after a rigorous season, returning home to Minnesota for a week before a well-deserved vacation. But now she’s in the gym again, working her way back from a recent surgery on her knee. “I had a cleanup [surgery] because I did have a few things wrong with [my knee] after season,” says Maggie, “so I’ve just been in the gym doing conditioning and cardio and stuff like that.”

Although she’s not certain yet what new elements she’ll include in her 2018 routines, Maggie is hoping to work on a yurchenko double on vault, and perhaps “upgrade my bars a little bit more.”

The 19-year-old still hasn’t closed the door on returning to elite just yet. “It has crossed my mind a few times, but right now I’m just trying to get healthy again and get strong.” She also says that Tokyo 2020 is still “a possibility for the future.” But right now, she’s mainly focusing on her NCAA career. “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,” says Maggie. “And also, I [would like to] snag an individual all-around title. So I’m going to keep working for those goals.”

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!

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